Zimbabwe’s Sevens rugby team qualified for their third successive Sevens World Cup despite suffering a last gasp 10-7 loss to hosts Uganda in the Rugby Africa Sevens tournament final in Kampala, Uganda yesterday.
With the two finalists in the continental championship booking a ticket to next year’s global showpiece, the Zambezi Cheetahs went into the final having already qualified for next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup, which will be staged in San Francisco, United States.
The Zambezi Cheetahs also secured a place at next year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series core status qualifier at the 2018 Hong Kong Sevens.
Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s charges will, however, be bitterly disappointed for not going all the way to what would have been their fourth continental title and first since 2012 after having gone to the break leading 7-0 through an early converted try by Stephan Hunduza.
Despite threatening to increase their lead, the Cheetahs, who were also let down by some poor calls by the centre referee, conceded two late tries as Uganda successfully defended their title with a narrow victory.
After finishing second in Pool B with three wins and one defeat on Friday, the Cheetahs started the second day fully aware that there would be no room for error as they secured a crucial 17-12 victory over Tunisia in the quarterfinals.
They went on to secure a World Cup qualification with a hard-fought 21-10 victory over Madagascar in a high-stakes semifinal encounter in which both sides had gone into knowing the victors would be guaranteed a spot in the US.
After losing to the same opponents during the pool stages on Friday, the Cheetahs were desperate to set the record straight in the make or break contest.
However, despite a comfortable lead and numerical advantage after a Madagascan player was sent to the sin-bin, it was the Indian Ocean Islanders who finished the first half stronger after running in two unconverted tries just before the break.
The Cheetahs, however, started the second half on the front foot which yielded a converted try by forward Biselele Tshamala before holding out for an important victory.