Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe national sevens rugby team’s preparations for this year’s Africa Cup in Tunisia are in tatters with lack of funds seeing the team not even in camp.
Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s men were meant to have started a training camp in Harare last Tuesday but as of yesterday, the coach was still holed up in Bulawayo. Indications are that the players will gather in Harare tomorrow ahead of departure on Wednesday.
The Africa Cup is taking place on Saturday and Sunday.
As a result of lack of planning, the Cheetahs will head to North Africa without skipper Hilton Mudariki and Boyd Rouse who are based in the United Kingdom as well as Shayne Makombe who plays club rugby in France. Indications are that the foreign based players, Biselele Tshamala, Riaan O’Neill, Connor Prichard, Stephan Hunduza, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Ngoni Chibuwe will be available for the Cheetahs in Tunisia.
The Cheetahs recently missed an opportunity not only to defend their title at the Maseru Sevens in Lesotho at the end of last month but also lost out on getting some game time ahead of the Africa Cup.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union president, Aaron Jani said they could not afford to send the Cheetahs on some of the tournaments since the shorter format of the game is played for most parts of the year with the bulk of the players having to be flown in from their foreign bases. His suggested remedy is using local-based athletes for some of the competitions to reduce the expenses.
“The problem with sevens is that they play throughout the year, that’s too expensive, most of the players have to be flown in for tournaments. We have to change the model to use local-based players, there are too many resources required,’’ Jani said.
In 2017, Zimbabwe were runners up at the Africa Cup where they lost 10-7 to host nation Uganda in the final with the result still good enough to send the Cheetahs to the Sevens Rugby World Cup held in San Francisco, United States of America in July this year.