SHARUKO BACK PAGE 28 MARCH
Paul Munyuki and Mbachi Mutukula-Maregere—

ZIMBABWE will have to find a way to get past a tough Spain in Hong Kong today, after powering to victories in the first two games of their qualifiers yesterday, to boost their chances of winning the lucrative ticket into the World Series Sevens core membership. The Cheetahs sprinted to victories by beating Guyana 36-0, in their opening game, before thumping Tonga 41-0, but they will have to win against Spain in their final group game today and finish top in Group G to get a favourable quarter-final draw.

Winger Tafadzwa Chitokwindo was the star of the show with three tries against Guyana and debutant Riaan O’Niell’s solitary run, from the halfway mark, caught the eye as the Zimbabweans got off to an impressive start.

Last year, Zimbabwe lost their battle in the quarter-final stage, having finished second in their group, but a win over Spain this morning will give them a very good chance of progressing past the last eight and keep their hopes of securing a ticket into the World Series Sevens core membership.

The impressive Chitokwindo showed why he is such a dangerous player as he demonstrated pace and an eye for the gap, scoring an early hattrick of tries, against Guyana before Stephan Hunduza added his try just before half-time.

Forward Njabulo Ndlovu, and Shayne Makombe also found their way onto the scoresheet and this was just the start the Cheetahs, under the guidance of coach Daniel Hondo, were just looking for at this tournament.

Their second game was against Tonga, a former Sevens giant.

The Zimbabweans, again, turned on the power with an impressive 41-0 thumping of the islanders with Hilton Mudariki grabbing the Cheetahs’ first try.

Chitokwindo was again in the mix, on a very productive day for him, while Hunduza and Boyd Rouse also added their names on the scoresheet as Zimbabwe finished the day tops, five points better than second-placed Spain, who conceded five points more.

Spain will not be pushovers, though, having enjoyed World Series Sevens core membership recently, but these Cheetahs have been flying and if they can get into their rhythm, they could get the win they badly need.

Zimbabwe and Spain both recorded impressive wins over Tonga and Guyana in Pool G, to secure their place in the quarter-finals and will meet today for bragging rights at the top of their pool.

Zimbabwe is among 12 nations vying for the sole ticket for core status membership in the Hong Kong Sevens second tier competition.

Uruguay, Russia, Papua New Guinea, Spain and Zimbabwe were the sides that maintained a 100 per cent record after the opening pool matches on day one of the World Rugby Sevens Series qualifiers.

Twelve regional qualifiers — two from each World Rugby region — are competing for a place as an ever-present team on the 2015-16 Series with the winner of the qualifier replacing the bottom-ranked of the 15 current core teams at the end of the current series.

In a closely contested Pool E, Brazil upset tournament hosts Hong Kong 17-12 before suffering a 14-7 defeat at the hands of Uruguay.

Los Teros had earlier accounted for Mexico 21-0, leaving them top of the pool.

Hong Kong hit back late in the day with a 38-5 win over Mexico to keep their quest on home soil alive with two tries from captain Jamie Hood helping in their win.

In Pool F, Papua New Guinea had a convincing 19-0 win over Tunisia before defeating a fast finishing Korea 21-19 in a highly entertaining match, while Russia’s clean slate included a seven-point win over Korea and a dominant 26-5 win over a gallant Tunisia.

Meanwhile, Africa Albida Tourism are excited to host South African rugby greats as they take on their Zimbabwean counterparts in a clash in Victoria Falls today.

The South African Rugby Legends, made up of former Springboks and provincial rugby players, are favourites to win the match, but the locals are hoping to ensure that they make this battle a competitive one.

Africa Albida Tourism chief executive, Ross Kennedy, is banking on the locals to produce an upset.

“Would it not be timely and suitable, for the Zim Legends to post a good victory over our more illustrious neighbours?

“To have players of this calibre, and experience, visiting Victoria Falls is a real delight for the entire community, especially the school where the game will be played.

“Some of these players are famed former Springboks and it is a privilege to welcome them, including, of course, their coach Ian McIntosh, one of Zimbabwe’s most famous rugby sons.

“We are proud to be associated with the event in Victoria Falls, as we play our part in building Brand Victoria Falls and more exposure for Destination Zimbabwe,” said Kennedy.

The weekend would be a fitting opportunity for players and the rugby fraternity to pay tribute to “a legend” of Zimbabwean rugby, Reg Nield, who sadly passed away last month, he said.

Zimbabwe-born South Africa Legends coach, Ian McIntosh, believes his team will overpower their local rivals.

“It’s about past players playing against each other and taking the game to an outreach clinic at the school to encourage youngsters to play in the future and to keep the game alive,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh spent most of his adult life in Zimbabwe, playing rugby for his country, before moving to South Africa 32 years ago.

He admitted while he had “a sentimental attachment” to his country of birth (Zimbabwe) but has “strong loyalties” to South Africa.

He said big names to watch included Trevor Halstead, Jonathan Mokoena, Kennedy Tsimba and John Mametsa.