HARARE – Ricky Chirengende, the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team coach, believes the young side he is taking to next week’s Africa Cup in Mauritius is oozing with quality to go all the way in the tournament and reclaim the country’s place among the best nations in the world.

The two best placed teams in the eight-nation event in Port-Louis will be promoted to the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, the second tier competition on the whirlwind global tour of the sport’s short version.

Zimbabwean rugby teams’ confidence has hit rock bottom over the past few years, certainly the Sevens, as a result of navigating from one failure to another.

Chirengende has put trust in the new generation of players to quickly bring back the Cheetahs’ mojo.

“Guys are looking good and ja, we feel like we are prepared,” Chirengende told SportsCast on Wednesday evening. “It’s obviously tough not to have game time and tournaments to participate in before the Africa Cup, but we will use what we get. The goal is to make it back to the Challenger Series and I believe this side will get us back there.”

Tapiwa Malenga has been retained as captain – leading a side full of flair, pace and guile. Other notable names include new call-up TJ Maguranyanga, of French Top club ASM Clermont Auvergne, and the diminutive Shadreck Mandaza, who has been making waves since joining American university Wheeling at the beginning of the year.

Then the likes of the exciting pair of Edward Sigauke and Kholwani Moyo, who have shone in the fuller format with Zimbabwe’s successful Under-20 team.

“I think we have X-factor across the field, you know, if you look at guys like Edward Sigauke, Shaddy Mandaza, Ryan Musumhi,” commented Chirengende.

“Then you add in Thabani Maguranyanga, Kholwani Moyo, Carlos Matematema – that’s all X-factor throughout. So we definitely have that speed. But then also we are lacking that little bit of experience. We have a couple of new debutants, you know, Allan (Mawunga) making his debut, TJ making his debut, Kholwani making his debut. Dion (Khumalo) is only in his second tournament, still very green. So we have a lot of youth, which could also be a strength. If they just go out there and be fearless, I think it will be good. I mean, rugby in Zim has taken a deep over the last few years, I guess (that’s why) I took a decision to go with youth, and start building from there. That’s why you see that the squad is littered with guys who have played Under-20 in the last two years. So we are really looking into the future and building a good squad that will enjoy a lot of success.”

The Cheetahs are grouped in Pool C with Zambia, Algeria and a second-string South African side belatedly included in the tournament after Ghana pulled out on the last minute.  

South Africa immediately announced they were sending a Springbok Sevens A team, which has just five previously capped players out of the traveling 13.

While admitting that the South Africans’ late entry calls for a different approach, Chirengende remains unfazed and focused on the task at hand.

“It just means things become tougher, as the Blitzbokke are a quality outfit and have won lots of games in the past,” said the youthful Zimbabwe coach.

“But to win the Africa Cup, you have to win against the best, and this one is no different.”


Forwards: Tapiwa Malenga (captain), Dion Khumalo, Kudakwashe Nyamakura, TJ Maguranyanga, Allan Mawunga, Vuyani Dhlomo.

Backs: Shadreck Mandaza, Kholwani Moyo, Edward Sigauke, Ryan Musumhi, Carlos Matematema, Nigel Tinarwo.


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