THE pedigree of Zimbabwe’s rugby sevens team, the Cheetahs, comes under spotlight this weekend in the second edition of hte Zambezi Challenge at Harare Sports Club.
Cheetahs coach Graham Kaulback says his team will be out to impress on home soil when they line up against other international teams in the Zambezi Challenge.
The rugby fiesta sees the hosts Zimbabwe, Botswana, Germany and Zambia take to the battle field on November 19 and 20.
The Cheetahs, as the national sevens side is popularly known, are desperate to do well in the second edition of their home tournament after a disappointing campaign during the inaugural event in April.
After being knocked out in the semi-finals by Botswana club Spartans, the Cheetahs had to settle for third position.
The Gaborone-based club which features a number of Zimbabwean players on their roster went on to be crowned the winners of the regional two-day competition after beating Zambia 26-14 in a rain-drenched final.
Defending champions Spartans are in the field for this year’s tournament along with Germany and Zambia, who are fresh from the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham early this year.
Zimbabwe is expected to field two senior sides namely the Zambezi Cheetahs, an Academy side, and a High-Performance Under-21 side in an effort to broaden their selection base.
Germany’s national rugby sevens team will add some international flavour to the second edition of the Zambezi Challenge which will be played at Harare Sports Club from next weekend.
The German team, known as the “Wolfpack,” will battle it out for the coveted title with hosts Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana-based side Spartans and other invited teams in the high-profile tournament.
Spartans, who are largely made up of Zimbabwean players based in Botswana are the defending champions after winning the inaugural edition of the competition early this year.
Their title defence is expected to face some stiff resistance from the Cheetahs, as the Zimbabwe side is affectionately known, who will be desperate to impress on home soil to make amends for a disappointing World Cup campaign.
Tournament debutants Germany are also expected to be among the title favourites after a relatively successful season in which they qualified for the World Cup in Cape Town.
Former Germany rugby international Clemens von Grumbkow, who is now the head coach of his country’s rugby sevens side said his team’s main objective is to win the Zambezi Challenge.
“Of course we’re going there to win the tournament, to continue to promote a winning mentality – but not at any price,” said Von Grumbkow in an interview with the Germany Rugby Union (Rugby Deutschland)’s official website.
“More importantly, we’re looking for a few young and new players who we hope can be an alternative for the top team,” he added.
The Germans have also cast their selection net wide ahead of the trip to Southern Africa by including three English players.
“We have been in contact with some of them for two years, but the coronavirus (pandemic) prevented us from using them earlier,” said von Grumbkow.
The trio includes playmaker Shawn Ingle, who plays semi-professionally in England while balancing with his studies at Cambridge University
He is joined by the McDonald brothers Michael and Cameron, who have already gained experience with the British Army on the international rugby sevens circuit. – zimsportlive.co.zw