15 May 2018

Zimbabwe: Cheetahs Eye Olympic Success

With their 2019 Rugby Sevens World Cup place already sealed, Zimbabwe's Cheetahs have now set themselves fresh targets with qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Cheetahs, as they have often done in the last few years, will be Zimbabwe rugby's flag bearers when they take part in the World Cup at the AT&T Park in San Francisco, where Gilbert Nyamutsamba's men will be one of only four African countries at the Sevens fiesta in the United States.

Core status sides and global Sevens giants, South Africa and Kenya and reigning Africa Cup champions Uganda, make up the rest of the continent's representatives at the global showpiece scheduled for July 20-22.

With their ticket to the World Cup having been long guaranteed when they finished as runners-up to Uganda in the Africa Cup last year, the Cheetahs, eager for more success have also set themselves a fresh target to reach the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The Olympic Games qualifiers are scheduled for next year but Nyamutsamba, featuring at the World Cup for the third time as coach, has already rolled out a programme for his Cheetahs, which he sold to the Zimbabwe Rugby Union leadership at a meeting which the executive held with the coach last Friday.

The Cheetahs begin their World Cup campaign with a date against Wales and will face hosts United States in the final match on Day One of action.

Failure to win in their group games will see the Cheetahs instead competing in an eight-team third-tier Bowl competition. Zimbabwe have, however, been improving with each World Cup appearance having finished 22nd on their debut in 1997 before rising to 17th on their second appearance in 2001.

On both occasions Nyamutsamba was an assistant to Liam Middleton before the former Zimbabwe intentional guiding the Cheetahs to a 13th place finish in his first time in charge at the 2013 tournament.

"The focus now is Olympic qualification and we are going to do our best in USA but the World Cup also marks the start of the Olympic preparations and when we discussed with the ZRU executive about this I also gave them my plan for the Olympics.

"Hopefully, the Olympic programme and the Olympic dream will have the backing of everyone and I know it is achievable. We have said whatever strategic plan we have for the Olympics let's support it now and not two weeks before," Nyamutsamba said.

The Cheetahs coach is, however, not entirely amused with the way they have gone about the final phase of their preparations for the World Cup.

Nyamutsamba noted though that his Cheetahs have found themselves in a delicate situation in which they also have to feature in the XVs version of the game in Sables colours in equally important World Cup qualifying assignments for Zimbabwe.

"Our plan that was put in place hasn't been implemented and with two months to go we are still not ready up to the levels that we had wanted.

"But that is not to say we are not going to compete and give it our best shot but we also have to be realistic in terms of our World Cup aspirations and we cannot exert pressure on these players for not winning the tournament in the United States," Nyamutsamba said.

The unassuming coach said Zimbabwean rugby's situation was compounded by the fact that there is currently a lack of player resources, which meant that his charges were also doubling up duty for the Sables.

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