BLITZBOKKE captain Kyle Brown expects a tough tournament when his side takes part in the Spar Zimbabwe international Sevens rugby tournament at Harare Sports Club starting Saturday. Brown was
part of the South Africa Academy advance party that arrived in the country yesterday ahead of the Cheetahs fund-raising dinner that was held at Cresta Lodge Hotel last night where he told The Herald they were not taking the two day tournament lightly as they are also preparing for the Hong Kong Sevens.
Brown also understands the kind of challenge they are going to face from Zimbabwe, who have given them a tough time in other tournaments both on the World Series and in regional competitions.
South Africa are in Pool C together with country mates Blue Bulls and Leopards while the Cheetahs are top seeds in Pool A that includes Zambia and Georgia but Brown feels they will meet Zimbabwe in the knock out stages.
"Playing Zimbabwe is somewhat a challenge for us because each time we play them they raise their standard of the game and they are a tricky side actually. I don't understand how they raise their game.
"At first there was an intention of brining a largely developmental side but the fact that we were not going to have any tournaments between Las Vegas Sevens and Hong Kong coach Paul Treu saw it as a good bridging opportunity for the side.
"Six weeks of training are different when you get game time so that is why there has been a lot of changes to the side that was initially expected to come here and of course we are going to field and try two or three (new) players during the tournament.
"I expect that we are going to witness a great tournament given that most of the national teams in this even will also be playing at the Hong Kong Sevens for core membership pre qualifiers and at the World Cup," said Brown.
However, following a career threatening injury three months ago, Brown will however, not be part of the players on the pitch and will be forced to watch from the terraces as he still has to undergo three more months of rehabilitation.
"Getting game time is fantastic but we are not only looking at getting game time but like every other team in the competition we would also like to win the title because that winning would be awesome in as much as we want to expose some players to a good level of rugby.
"I believe Zimbabwe has a lot of gifted young athletes who if given the exposure and time they need can become great players because they just need a bit of polishing," said Brown.
The tournament - in its second year running - drew interest from countries such as Hong Kong, Georgia, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa who have most of the teams in the form of provincial sides.
At the same time Zimbabwe will field three teams in the form of the Cheetahs and two developmental sides the Goshawks and the Zambezi Warriors.
Like Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Russia Georgia have also qualified for the World Cup and will also be in the running for core membership in the Hong Kong leg of the World Series in three weeks time while South Africa are also sending some of their top players for the tournament to keep them active also for Hong Kong and offer more competition.
"So with these kind of teams and what they are hoping to get in the coming tournaments I am sure we are out for an exciting weekend of rugby and I can't wait to see the quality of players that will play here," added Brown.
Initially Zimbabwe were set to field only the Cheetahs and Goshawks but the withdrawal of Botswana led to the inclusion of the Zambezi Warriors as the Zimbabwe Rugby Union could not invite another foreign team at short notice.
From South Africa six teams including the South Africa Academy are expected to grace the tournament including the Buffaloes who gave the Cheetahs a good run for their money in the final.
Other teams that are expected in the country from Down South are Leopards, Blue Bulls Academy, Mpumalanga Pumas while Kenya, Hong Kong, Georgia and Zambia make the national team contingent.
And in preparation for the tournament, the Cheetahs went into camp on Tuesday and are at their traditional base Old Georgians Sports Club and this will be a perfect opportunity for the Zimbabwe side to measure their strength. Blitzbokke coach Paul True - who is well aware of what Zimbabwe is capable of doing having caused shivers in his Sevens side - will lead the SA Academy technical team contingent this year as they bring a more experienced side.
Fortunate Chipendu, Jacques Leitao (captain), Japhet Ndebele, Lucky Sithole, Kelvin Magunje, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Stephan Hunduza, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Njabulo Ndlovu Daniel Hondo.
Coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba
Manager: Bruce Hobson
Sean Chigumbura, Farai Jijita, Dan Nichols, Boyd Rous, Teddy Hwata, Carter Makwasha, Kuda Chiwanza, David Cloete, Lloyd Machinjaire, Shayne Makombe, Lance Chikodzi, Craig Elcombe.
Coach: John Ewing
Manager: Basil Dingiswayo
Percy Kwenda, Eddy Manyere, Ruben Kruger, Ian Armstrong, Nelson Madida, Coutney Watsai, Tino Gurure, Walter Gonde, Dando Ndlovu, Denver Chigege, Charles Gwanzura, Tawanda Chowe, Richard Chigumba, Tatas Matataguta, Gazza Crabbe.
Pool A: Zimbabwe, Georgia, Zambia
Pool B: Hong Kong, Kenya, Zambezi Warriors
Pool C: Blue Bulls, Leopards, SA Academy
Pool D: Goshawks, Pumas, Buffaloes.