|At the end of a fiercely contested competition between the top twelve African teams, Zimbabwe emerged as the victors from the Rugby Sevens 2018 Africa Championship, qualifying for three major international events and confirming their chances of Olympic qualification|
Uganda had great hopes of retaining the title of African Champions for the third year in a row and Kenya had the clear intention of winning back the title, but they were caught unawares by Zimbabwe’s performance in the final, who beat the hot favourites, Kenya, 17 to 5.
The loyalty of the Zimbabwean fans, who were bitterly disappointed by their team’s qualification offensive for the World Cup Fifteens during the Rugby Africa Gold Cup (Zimbabwe finished 5th out of 6 teams), was rewarded by their national selection in the Sevens.
The Zimbabwean coach, Gilbert Nyamutsamba, had this to say: “I’m very proud of our players. This is a really special group full of rising stars in Zimbabwean rugby. With limited resources, these players, driven by national pride, gave their all. I have huge respect and affection for this team.”
Back in Harare, the team will quickly throw themselves back into training to prepare for the competitions in which they are now invited to play, the 2018/2019 World Series tournaments in Dubai on November 29th and December 1st and in Cape Town on December 8th and 9th. These high-level international tournaments will serve as excellent practice for the 2019/2020 World Series qualifier which takes place every year in Hong Kong in April. On this crucial date, the men from Harare will be joined by the Ugandans who finished third in the tournament, and by the Kenyans who already qualified for the World Series.
In 2019, the African Olympic qualifications will be the major challenge of the rugby season for all teams. At the end of the 2018 season, Guédel N’Diaye, Rugby Africa’s competitions director, said: “With the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, this season has been particularly full and dramatic for Rugby Africa. The focus, of course, has been on the Rugby Africa Gold Cup and its fifteen intensely competitive matches. We have enjoyed wonderful rugby from very professional teams and in particular, we have seen improvements in quality at all levels on the field by the players, by the coaches and by the match officials. Next year, Rugby Africa plans to continue to progress at the same pace with a focus on the men’s and women’s Sevens with an eye on Olympic qualifications.”
At the meeting of the Executive Committee in Sousse, Tunisia, the representatives from Rugby Africa came together to analyze the progress made in 2018, to decide on the priorities for 2019, and to identify strategies to meet the ongoing challenges of competitions, female participation, grassroots development and training of coaches. The president of Rugby Africa, Abdelaziz Bougja, outlined his thoughts: “The competitions and events calendar for 2019 will be revealed before the end of the year. We are considering new formats, better adapted to the reality of our continent but which will also encourage our teams to achieve better performances. I would like to thank our partners, Kwesé Sports and the African Press Organisation who participated in these discussions and who support us in this process. The Africa Men’s Sevens tournament has just concluded on a high note in Tunisia. Every year, the Tunisian federation organises high quality events that are a source of pride for African rugby and they are to be congratulated. ”
The next meetings organised in 2018 are the final of the Rugby Africa Silver Cup on the 20th of October in Mufulira, Zambia, between the Zambians and the Algerians, and of course the international playoff tournament for the Fifteens World Cup from the 11th to the 23rd of November at Delort stadium in Marseille, France, where Kenya will fight for its last chance to qualify against Germany, Hong Kong and Canada.
The ranking at the end of the Africa Men’s Sevens 2018 tournament is as follows: