Mehluli Sibanda Senior Sports Reporter
UNITED Kingdom-based scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki is yet to join the Zimbabwe national sevens rugby team camp preparing for the Confederation of African Rugby Africa Cup Sevens Tournament set for Prince Edward High School in Harare on Saturday and Sunday.Zimbabwe Cheetahs coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba said Mudariki, who turns out for Amersham and Chiltern Rugby Union Football Club, should be in the country before the weekend. A squad of 17 players went into camp on Monday at the state of the art Innovate High Performance Centre in the capital city which is run by former Sables and Cheetahs player Grant Mitchell.
“Mudariki will be in before the weekend,’’ said Nyamutsamba.
With the Cheetahs final squad of 12 players for the tournament to be announced tomorrow, it presents an interesting scenario with regards Mudariki. It is almost certain that the player will only fly all the way from England if he is guaranteed a place in the final squad.
Nyamutsamba saw some of the players he had called up withdraw due to injuries, these being the South Africa based duo of Biselele Tshamala and Lenience Tambwera while South Africa born Zimbabwe international Lambert Groenewald pulled out for unspecified reasons. This saw replacements being called up in the form of sevens rugby stalwart Wesley Mbanje, Matabeleland Busters bulky winger Tyler Rowe and Gweru Sports Club scrumhalf Kilvan Magunje.
Rowe, an ex-Falcon College student who interestingly played flank during his school days in Esigodini, former Churchill High School winger Mkhululi Ndlela and South Africa based scrumhalf Takudzwa Kamudire are the only new faces in the squad in camp. Zimbabwe Sables centre Rian O’Neil is also yet to represent the country in the shorter format of the game.
Zimbabwe have been drawn in pool A together with Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Namibia and Uganda. Pool B contains South Africa, Tunisia, Botswana, Zambia, Senegal and Madagascar.
The Cheetahs final squad of 12 players for the tournament will be announced tomorrow with the team shifting base to train at PE on the following day.
With South Africa and Kenya already part of the World Rugby (formerly International Rugby Board) World Sevens Series main circuit, all that Zimbabwe needs to do to qualify for the Hong Kong qualifying tournament in March next year is to make it to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup.
If Zimbabwe do make it to Hong Kong, they will get an opportunity to become a full member of the World Rugby Sevens Series which gives them an opportunity to play in all the nine circuit tournaments as opposed to the current scenario where they are only invited to the South African leg of the series that is staged at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth next month.
Zimbabwe Cheetahs training squad: Jacques Leitao(captain), Fortune Chipendu, Gardner Nechironga, Stephan Hunduza, Hilton Mudariki, Takudzwa Kamudire, Teddy Hwata, Njabulo Ndlovu, Boyd Rouse, Mkhululi Ndlela, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Tyler Rowe, Graham Kaulback, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Riaan O’Neil, Shayne Makombe, Wesley Mbanje, Kilvan Magunje.
Head Coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba.
Assistant Coach: Daniel Hondo.
Team Manager: Steve McDonald.