HARARE – Zimbabwe Sevens rugby coach Ricky Chirengende admits that a “tall order” faces his team at the ongoing Africa Cup in Mauritius as the Cheetahs target qualification to the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

Zimbabwe lost 24-21 to minnows Burkina Faso on Saturday to complicate matters in the side’s quest to seal a Challenger slot.

The tournament now moves into the second and final phase this coming weekend, where the Cheetahs have been pooled alongside a South Africa ‘A’ side, Nigeria and Mauritius.

Two top teams out of the eight-nation event gain promotion into the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

South Africa and Kenya – who are part of the first-tier World Rugby Sevens Series – are however not contesting for those two places in the Mauritius tournament.

It makes life easier for Zimbabwe, but then the Cheetahs are on the back-foot because three teams already have an advantage over them going into this weekend, courtesy of points accrued in the first leg of the competition.

These are Uganda, Burkina Faso and Madagascar.

“We will need to do very well and hope that two of those three perform poorly,” Chirengende told SportsCast on Tuesday.

Chirengende conceded that inexperience has been his team’s downfall in crucial moments of the Port-Louis event.

“We definitely wanted to go all the way to the final and win it. But sometimes you have to take that in your stride, especially with a young side,” he said.

“There will be a lot of ups and downs, before they finally come good. About at least three or four of these guys, it’s their first ever Sevens tournament. There is bound to be some of these hiccups. We will obviously take stock over the next couple of days and see what we can fix before we head into another crucial weekend. For me, I take courage in the good performances. It’s easy to look at the Burkina Faso game, which we were 20 seconds away from winning, and feel downhearted. And obviously we lost that other one to South Africa. But there were a lot of positives from the other games – beating Kenya, and coming close to the South African Academy. Those were good performances. We have looked at the pools for this weekend. Obviously the job becomes tougher. We will obviously sort of need to win this weekend to give ourselves full points. So the task ahead is quite clear, we know it’s a tall order. But we will obviously work and leave no stone unturned for next weekend.”

Zimbabwe will pin hopes in this make-or-break phase of the tournament on some of the young side’s leading players, such as France-based TJ Maguranyanga, who had a brilliant international debut last weekend.

Another outstanding player was Shadreck Mandaza, who has been a in fine form since joining Wheeling University in the United States early this year.


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