ZIMBABWE’S Sevens Rugby team, the Cheetahs left their training base in Cape Town yesterday ahead of their participation in the 12-team HSBC Sevens World Series core team qualifier at the Hong Kong Sevens starting on Friday.
After spending the week training alongside the South Africa Sevens side at their world-class University of Stellenbosch, SA, training facilities, the Cheetahs will be confident of doing well in Hong Kong under the tutelage of newly appointed head coach Daniel Hondo.
Hondo, who will be leading the side in his first assignment since taking over from Gilbert Nyamutsamba announced his final 12-member for the crucial tournament last Friday.
Riaan O’Neill, who has captained Wynberg Boys’ High School in Cape Town and represented the Sharks Under-20, will make his first bow on the HSBC World Sevens Series after being named in the experienced side.
O’Neill, who played for the Sables during last year’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers, is no stranger to the Cheetahs setup after making his Sevens debut during the Africa Cup Sevens tournament late last year, South Africa-based forward Biselele Tshamala, who had an impressive campaign for the Durban-based Varsity College bounced back in the squad after missing out on selection for the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in December.
Veteran Fortune Chipendu together with youngsters Mkhululi Ndlela, Takudzwa Francisco and Tapiwa Tsomondo missed out on selection.
Fly-half Lenience Tambwera was reportedly omitted from the side due to South African franchise Falcons’ reluctance to release him because to their commitments in the Vodacom Cup.
Germany-based gasman Tafadzwa Chitokwindo was not part of the training camp in Cape Town and is expected to link up with the rest of the squad in Hong Kong.
Zimbabwe will battle it out in Pool G alongside Spain, Tonga, and Guyana while the other teams which will be vying for the sole ticket include Hong Kong, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico in Pool E while Pool F features Russia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea and Tunisia.
The Hong Kong Sevens is an essential tournament for the Cheetahs in their quest to become a fully-fledged professional outfit as a win in the 12-team qualifier will see them earning core status for the next HSBC World Series.
Cheetahs squad: Jacques Leitao (captain), Boyd Rouse, Njabulo Ndlovu, Shayne Makombe, Riaan O’Neill, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Kilvan Magunje, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Hilton Mudariki, Stephan Hunduza, Biselele Tshamala, Graham Kaulback
Head coach: Daniel Hondo
Assistant coach: John Ewing
Team manager: Steve McDonald