THE ZIMBABWE Sevens rugby team’s World Cup preparations entered the home stretch yesterday with foreign-based players joining camp ahead of the team’s departure for Russia on Sunday.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
With the final World Cup squad expected to be announced on Thursday, competition for places in the side has intensified significantly as all the players are keen to impress the technical team.
The 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens will be held from June 28-30 in Moscow and the Zimbabwe side, affectionately known as the Cheetahs, were grouped in Pool C with Kenya, Samoa and the Philippines.
UK-based former Cheetahs coach, Liam Middleton took charge of the team’s morning session yesterday after being invited by the Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby Committee to assist the team.
The former Bristol coach, who led the national side to the previous edition of the World Cup in Dubai, led the squad through their drills and was joined by head coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba for the afternoon session.
Only three players from the 21-member squad — Manasah Sita, Wesley Mbanje and Tangai Nemadire — missed the morning session, but were expected to join camp for the afternoon session.
Speed stars Sita and Mbanje arrived from their bases at lunchtime while Nemadire had asked to be excused from the morning session due to family commitments. The Cheetahs were boosted by the return of vice-captain Daniel Hondo to full fitness.
Hondo, who was part of the Cheetahs squad at the last edition of the World Cup in 2009 has fully recovered from an ankle injury and took part in yesterday’s training session. The speedy backliner is one of the survivors from the class of 2009 which won the Bowl title at the last edition of the World Cup in Dubai.
Other players in the current squad who were part of that team include skipper Jacques Leitao, Gardner Nechironga, Fortune Chipendo and Wensley Mbanje.
Cheetahs’ manager Bruce Hobson admitted that the technical department was spoiled for choice due to the high number of players available for selection.
“We have over 20 players all keen to make the World Cup squad and it’s the highest number we have had so far. Hopefully this will ensure that there’s competition for places and allow us to travel with the best possible squad. The final squad which will travel to Moscow will be officially announced at the Press conference on Thursday,” Hobson said.
Cheetah’s squad: Fortune Chipendo, Jacques Leitao, Njabulo Ndlovu, Mike Morris, Justin Coles, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Lucky Sithole, Japhet Ndebele, Sean Chigumbura, Boyd Rouse, Shayne Makombe, Andrew Rose, Tangai Nemadire, Kilvan Magunje, Danny Hondo, Gardner Nechironga, Wesley Mbanje, Garth Ziegler, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Steven Hunduza, Manasah Sita