HARARE – Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s top rugby playing nations, couldn’t resist the urge to send a strong Sevens team to the African Games because the country doesn’t play enough games throughout the year, says coach Ricky Chirengende.

Zimbabwe failed to make it to this year’s Olympic Games in Paris July, having hosted Africa’s qualification tournament last September from where Kenya and Uganda qualified automatically with South Africa having to go through play-offs later this year in June.

As for Zimbabwe, following that failure to qualify for the Olympics, the Southern African nation was expected to begin rebuilding starting with the African Games in Ghana, by selecting an entirely developmental side for the Accra event.

31-year-old veteran Hilton Mudariki – who is experienced captaining both the Sables and the 7s outfit –is vice-captain to Tapiwa Malenga at the African Games which officially begins this Friday in the Ghanaian capital Accra. The squad also has Godfrey Magaramombe, who captained Zimbabwe at the Olympics qualifiers in Harare last year.

Coach Ricky Chirengende (left) with senior player Godfrey Magaramombe.

Apart from the dismal Olympics failure, Zimbabwe is also out of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, the second most prestigious event in this format after the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

“Falling out of the Challenger Series already, we don’t have enough games and tournaments in the year,” Chirengende told SportsCast on Wednesday.

“It’s an opportunity to get game time for the team that’s going to play in the Africa Cup later in the year. The Africa Cup is crucial, it’s an opportunity to get back into the Challenger Series. So the African Games in Ghana is pretty much our only opportunity to play any tournament before that. So, you know, with funding being tight, and not playing the Challenger Series, we are actually not spoilt for choice in terms of the numbers of tournaments that are available to us.”

Chirengende was reacting to an opinion article in Zimbabwean online newspaper, The NewsHawks, which said picking a squad with “seasoned players” showed “desperation for results” on the part of the country’s success-starved Sevens rugby team.

“The African Games in Ghana is an opportunity to get the guys playing at a good level, just getting a tournament feel, you know, wake up with sore bodies and go again – something that is going to be crucial when we play the Africa Cup later in the year,” added Chirengende.

“So it’s not a desperation for results at all. Results will always take care of themselves, it’s just about getting adequate time for our guys who are going to do the job at the Africa Cup and ja. So sending these seasoned players, ‘seasoned’ is a loosely used word because if you tally the number of tournaments that they play in a year, it doesn’t really qualify them as seasoned players. We don’t play enough rugby as it is, and so any opportunity to play, I think, it’s good to send these guys. We have to send the best team to do the job. But as you can see, we’ve also blooded in some new talent in Trevor Gurwe, Munya Ngandu, Dion Khumalo etcetera, new guys coming into the fold.”


Tapiwa Malenga (captain), Hilton Mudariki (vice-captain) Vuyani Dhlomo, Tapiwa Mafura, Godfrey Magaramombe, Kudakwashe Nyamakura, Tatenda Matoramusha, Ryan Musumhi, Edward Sigauke, Carlos Matematema, Nigel Tinarwo, Dion Khumalo, Trevor Gurwe, Munyaradzi Ngandu, Shadreck Mandaza, Takudzwa Kumadiro.


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