Cheetahs in bright start at Olympic qualifiers

Mehluli Sibanda in JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

ZIMBABWE made a bright start on day one of the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens at Bosman Stadium here where the Cheetahs won all their three matches yesterday.

With this year’s Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens also serving as a 2020 Olympics qualifier, the Cheetahs, with their three wins so far, are on the right path to book their spot in Tokyo next year.

The Cheetahs started the day with a hard-fought 24-21 triumph over Nigeria, who came into the tournament as the lowest-ranked team.

Zimbabwe came into the tourney as the defending champions.

The Cheetahs met Nigeria again, this time in the group stages, with the Cheetahs triumphant 47-0.

In their last encounter, the Gilbert Nyamutsamba-coached Cheetahs defeated Zambia 19-7 to cap off a fine day.

Against Zambia, Takudzwa Kumadiro gave Zimbabwe the lead with a try that was converted by Hilton Mudariki.

Zambia scored just before the break with the scores level at 7-7 going into half-time.

Kumadiro scored the second try, with skipper Stephan Hunduza making it 14-7 with a successful conversion.

Tafadzwa Chitokwindo scored the third try for the Cheetahs with the missed conversion kick counting for nothing as Zimbabwe emerged victorious.

Zimbabwe play their last group encounter when they clash with Madagascar this morning in the second and final day of the tournament.

Madagascar are yet to taste defeat in the tournament, so far, together with Kenya and   Uganda.

Nyamutsamba felt they were sluggish at the start but picked things up as the day progressed.

He is pleased that they are still with a chance to qualify for the Olympics.

“We had a slow start but what I am really happy about, what we can take away from today, is that with each game we played better,’’ said Nyamutsamba.

‘’With each game, we improved, which is actually a good way to play a tournament.

‘’With our three wins now, this keeps us in the main cup still with a chance to go all the way.’’

He said he expects a tough task against Madagascar.

The Cheetahs look certain to make it to the semifinals where they are most likely to take on Uganda while Kenya should play Madagascar.

The winners of the two semi-finals will have a shot at direct qualification for the next year’s Olympic Games.