HARARE – The Zambezi Cheetahs have had a memorable 2017 and it even got better when they were nominated for the Team of the Year gong at the 2017 Annual National Sports Awards (Ansa).
The Zimbabwe Sevens rugby side will battle it out with the national cricket team and the rowing pair of Kenneth Raynor and Keegan Smith when the Ansa banquet is held next Wednesday in the capital.
After having qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens to be held in San Francisco, United States next July, the Zambezi Cheetahs have every reason to feel proud after their nomination.
“We are very humbled to be on that list among the three best performing sports teams on the land,” Zambezi Cheetahs team manager Donald Mangenje told the Daily News.
“The very fact that we have been recognised by the highest sporting authority to have performed well is enough recognition for us.
“Even on the night if we don’t win the award, we are very humbled to be among the three best teams.”
Mangenje paid tribute to everyone involved in the Cheetahs set-up for the pulling in one direction resulting in the team’s podium finishes this year.
“The boys have really worked hard this year and we have managed to win or reach the final of each and every tournament that we have participated in this season,” he said.
“Obviously, we have qualified for World Cup which was our major target and it all came about due to the change in mindset in everyone from the committee level down to the players.
“We have also tried to identify players that can play the Sevens game and you will see that there has been better player retention.
“Look this season we managed to have some players that have not been playing for the Cheetahs in a long time; players like Tapiwa Tsomondo and Njabulo Ndlovu all came back to play for the Sevens.
“The coach Gidza (Gilbert Nyamutsamba) has also done well to guide the team.”
While 2017 has seen the Zambezi Cheetahs reclaim their past glory, Mangenje is fully aware of the huge task that lies ahead next year.
“Well qualifying for the World Cup was one step and the next step is for us to go there and perform,” he said.
“We are looking to prime ourselves for the World Cup and the Hong Kong Sevens by taking part in several tournaments earlier.
“We have also lined up several training camps and with funds permitting, a strength and conditioning programme for the players.”
Provisionally, the Zambezi Cheetahs technical team is hoping to take part in the Royal Bafokeng Sevens tournament in South Africa in March.
They are also targeting to be part of the cast at the Kampala Sevens tournament to be held in Uganda that same month.
The team will then host the Victoria Falls Sevens tournament at the end of March followed by their participation at the Hong Kong Sevens in at the start of April.
They are also hoping to take part in the Mauritius Sevens tournament in June.
In the event they are able to take part in all these tournaments, Mangenje believes it will give the team a good preparation campaign ahead of the global showpiece in San Francisco.