THE Zimbabwe Sevens gave their all, but it wasn’t enough as they lost out 17-19 to continental giants Kenya, in the dying seconds of an epic Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens Olympic qualifying final at the Barnard Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
With the Cheetahs trailing 14-12 and a man down after skipper Jacques Leitao had been sent to the sin bin, speed merchant Tafadzwa Chitokwindo looked to have handed the Cheetahs an upset victory with a brilliant 90m try.
However, with the Cheetahs on the cusp of glory, Kenya’s Dennis Ombachi’s broke the hearts of Zimbabwean fans with a determined cross field run and try punched to earn his team’s ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Cheetahs will, however, get another shot at qualification for the Olympics through the global repechage tournament against losing finalists from the other continents.
Earlier the Cheetahs, who had fired warning shots with three straight wins on Saturday, continued with their rich vein of form by easily dispatching a physical Nigerian side 27-10 to reach the semifinals.
Heading into the semi-finals, the Cheetahs knew they could not afford any slip-ups as they faced a Moroccan side that was full of confidence, having earlier caused an had upset after beating Namibia 22-15 in the quarters.
The Namibians, who had the services of former Kenya 7s assistant coach, Vuyo Zangqa from South Africa, included eight players who were part of their XVs squad at the recent Rugby World Cup in England.
However, the North Africans simply had no answers against a confident Cheetahs side with veteran skipper, Leitao crossing over the whitewash twice either side of the half to inspire the Danny Hondo-coached side to a 26-0 victory.
Prolific try scorer, Stephan Hunduza, had earlier opened the Cheetahs account, while Manasah Sita sealed the victory with a brilliant individual effort late in the game.
A key feature in the Cheetahs’ semifinal perfomance was how they were powerful at the breakdown, while ensuring the Moroccans were not allowed any space to penetrate in the midfield.
However, for all their efforts in the final, the Cheetahs, who had their fair share of near misses in recent years yet again came agonisingly close to making history.
Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby Team collated results Pool B results: Zimbabwe 31-12 Nigeria, Zimbabwe 48-0 Zambia, Zimbabwe 43-0 Uganda Quarter-finals: Zimbabwe 27-10 Nigeria Semi-finals: Zimbabwe 26-0 Morocco Final: Zimbabwe 17-19 Kenya