Hong Kong Sevens

London calling for improving Zimbabwe

Nyamutsamba’s team put icing on the cake and will be joined by Tonga, Russia and Georgia in qualifier for core-team status

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 9:39pm

The world series pre-qualifier was all about opportunities and Zimbabwe grabbed theirs with both hands, storming to a 22-19 victory over Tonga in the final.

With the promise of four places at May's London Sevens for those teams who made it to the semi-finals of the competition - Twickenham will act as the qualifier for the 2013-14 world series - Zimbabwe coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba could hardly contain his delight after returning from a champagne-soaked lap of honour having ticked all the boxes.

"We put in so much time working into this tournament that the boys have got what they deserve," he said. "We knew after losing to Russia [21-12] on Saturday we had to go back to our game plan, not get too excited and play to our strengths.

"I think the crowd can see how far rugby has come in Zimbabwe. Our objective was to qualify for London, this win is the icing on the cake."

The see-sawing final left little margin for error, with a late try giving the Tongans some hope, but their coach, Etuati Waqa, was left to rue some sloppy handling - something he said needed to be addressed fast if they were to match it now with the big boys of sevens.

"A few too many mistakes, but it's been a very good week for us," he said. "We wanted to match ourselves against the tier-two nations we don't know - like Zimbabwe and Russia - and we did pretty well.

"We know where we stand now and how much we have to lift and so everything moves forward from here. It's all about preparation."

The Russians were beaten in the semis, but there are plenty of positives ahead with London and the World Cup as host nation in June looming.

"Our preparations now for London will be the same as we had here. We were missing a few core players through injury but it was a good opportunity to let some of the younger guys have a go and learn about playing in front of a big crowd," said coach Aleksandr Alekseenko.

"We have London and then we host the World Cup so it is a big year for rugby in Russia. Everyone back home is getting excited and the buzz is building. We can't wait. It will be an unforgettable experience for the players and for our country."

Georgia provided the surprise of the day, bouncing the more fancied Japanese out 17-0 in the morning to qualify for London, and team manager Nodar Andguladze said after losing 26-7 to the Japanese on Saturday, a team-bonding session had proved the difference.

"We got together and had a talk about what we did wrong on Saturday and came out firing today," he said, after the Georgians' challenge ended with a 19-7 loss to Tonga in the quarters.

"We will welcome back a few players who have been away playing with teams in Europe and hope we can keep improving."

Japan's loss will leave Hong Kong as the only Asian representative in London, and the only Asian team left in with a chance of qualifying for 2013-14 core-team status.

Japan coach Tomohiro Segawa was putting on a brave face, preferring to focus on this weekend's Tokyo Sevens.

"We just have to look forward to our home sevens and improve on our performance there," he said. "It's a great shame we didn't make it through to London but as players and a team we have to learn from this experience."