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Cheetahs World Cup preparations begin

By Petros Kausiyo

Zambezi  Cheetahs coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba was left a satisfied man as Zimbabwe got their Rugby Sevens World Cup preparations off to a start with the staging of the first of a series of training camps, which ended at Harare Sports Club yesterday.

Nyamutsamba began the camp with a 30-man squad of hopefuls on Saturday, but by the end of the second day yesterday afternoon he had trimmed it down to 20 with the seasoned coach indicating that the programme he had drawn was not just targeting the Word Cup but encompassed preparations for the Africa Cup, the Hong Kong Sevens and also ensuring there is a strong Under-20 side.

But there is no doubting that it is the ultimate tournament — the World Cup — which will be uppermost the rugby family’s minds as the Cheetahs limber up to the global showcase in the United States in July.

What impressed Nyamutsamba the most yesterday was the fact that he had managed to identify “15 new players who have never been associated with the cheetahs but have shown huge potential and given us new dimensions’’.

Nyamutsamba had begun the camp by inviting interested locals for a meeting with coaches as he sought to also pick as many technical perspectives as possible.

“We realise as Sevens committee that this is a national team and as such we do appreciate that there are so many coaches, current and past players and rugby lovers that can contribute to the betterment of the team,’’ Nyamutsamba said.

Mbare academy coach Victor Pekani, outgoing Zimbabwe Rugby Union director of coaching Nsikelelo “Sykes’’ Sibanda, national Under-20 coach Bob Mahari, Abigail Kawonza from the women’s Sevens team and Lovemore Kuzorera (Ghana Coach) were among technical personnel who heeded the call to chip in with their observations.

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Apart from the likes of scrum-half Stephan Hunduza, prop Lucky Sithole, centre Ngoni Chibuwe, wing Shingirai Hlanguyo and hooker Nelson Madida, none of the largely youthful players who were on show during the two-day training camp had previous Cheetahs experience.

Nyamutsamba has planned a similar camp in Bulawayo before the Cheetahs shift a gear up by taking their preparations to South Africa.

“I am happy with the way our first training camp has gone. There was overwhelming response and a number of new players who made themselves available got a chance to be looked at.

“It’s a first of the selection camps and it can only add to the strengthen that we are looking at because new players always bring with them new dimensions.

“These guys are mostly Under-20 and it gives us the continuity that we need,’’ Nyamutsamba said.

The former Cheetahs international also said they would now advise the players on what they need to work on for them to perform at the levels they require.

“For the World Cup we have a pathway that we want to follow and our target is that by early April we should have trimmed our squad to 20 for the Hong Kong tournament,’’ Nyamutsamba said.

That the young players such as the gangly Tafadzwa Bunu, Tarisai Mugariri, Mathew McNab and Prince Dube who were at Harare Sports Club showed a lot of exuberance and talent, seems to suggest that the Cheetahs and the national Sevens committee are on the right track.

And in what promises to be a busy year for the game, there is no doubting that any training camp that can unearth more gems will not just be welcome news to Nyamutsamba, team manger Donald Mangenje but the Zimbabwe Rugby Union at large who will soon unveil a new coach for the XVs senior side the Sables.

The Sables who are without a coach since the controversial axing of Cyprian Mandenge by the ZRU five months ago, will also have their World Cup assignments to worry about this year as they plunge into the qualifying campaign in June. The Herald