By MOSES CHIMFWEMBE –
THE Zambia Rugby Union (ZRU) is banking on the men’s sevens national team to qualify to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after the women side was eluded of a spot following a dismal performance during the qualifying tournament in South Africa last weekend.
ZRU general secretary Francis Chitambo said in an interview yesterday that Zambia’s hopes now lies in the men’s team that competes in the final qualifying tournament in Johannesburg next month.
The women squad failed to go passed the preliminary round at the qualifier tournament after losing four games in succession to miss out on the Olympic spot with South Africa clinching the ninth qualifying slot after beating Kenya 31-5 in the final.
Zambia suffered a 59-0 bashing to hosts South Africa before losing 32-0 to Zimbabwe and wrapped up the campaign with painful 36-0 and 15-10 defeats to Uganda and Namibia respectively.
“It was a disappointing performance from the team because we expected them to perform better even though they were not going to qualify instead of losing all the matches,” Chitambo said.
He, however, attributed the poor show to lack of investment in women rugby in the country.
Currently, Zambia only has three women rugby teams that include Lusaka, Eagles and Diggers.
“Going forward, we need more investment in women rugby so that the women league can be complete. Our Olympic hopes now lie in the men’s team that is currently in Nairobi for the Safari sevens tournament which we are using to warm up for the final qualifiers,” he said.
Meanwhile, 14 teams will do battle in the 2015 Knockout tournament that kicks off this afternoon.
With league champions Red Arrows not competing owing to work commitments, this tournament will present an opportunity for other teams to end the calendar year on a high.
Defending champions ‘Men At Work’ Diggers, who will be looking forward to retaining the title, are hoping to make easy work of Ndola who they face in the preliminary round.
Nkwazi, who recently bagged the Heroes and Ndola sevens trophies are favourites to emerge victorious over Kansanshi to progress to the next round.
Other matches will see Roan battle it out against Chibuluma with Mufulira facing Kitwe Playing fields while Buffaloes will take on Prisons.
Konkola will face ‘Powerhouse’ Lusaka and Nchanga plays host to Eagles.
The quarter finals will be played next weekend before the semi-final billed for October 17 with the final being played a week later.