Zimbabwe women’s sevens rugby team hosted continental rugby powerhouses on 17 and 18 September for the 2016 Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Championships at Harare’s Police Grounds. Regional heavyweights South Africa and Kenya, who represented Africa at the Rio 2016 Olympics, were present alongside teams from Senegal, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar, Tunisia and Uganda. The matches kicked off at 0800hrs with the eight teams divided into two groups, Pool A and Pool B. Zimbabwe were in Pool A alongside South Africa, Namibia and Senegal while Pool B consisted of heavyweights Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar and Tunisia.
The Springbok women sevens have won the competition three years in a row from 2006 to 2008 before winning it again in 2011 and 2014. With such experience it was no surprise that they were crowned Champions again this year, though not without a good run for it following a tough challenge from Kenya in a 22-17 final victory.
The Zimbabwe women sevens rugby team captain, Charity Mucucuti, was impressed by her teammates’ performance at the Championships that ended in Harare on Sunday. This was despite missing out on the much-desired 1st place to settle for 3rd in the eight-team showpiece. The Lady Cheetahs beat Uganda 24-0 to finish third.
Mucucuti believes the goal, on her side, was to learn a lot from experienced sides like South Africa and Kenya, and her team did just that.
“We cannot really complain, of course everyone dreams of being the best team in any competition but I am happy with the team’s effort over all,” she said.
“Rugby is a sport not really expected to see women participating but Zimbabweans are warming up to seeing us on the field and the support has been really amazing. We would like to thank our fans for all the support they gave us.
“We had a handful of young players who were playing their first international matches for their country and this has been a great environment for them to do that. We are hoping that our experience in this tournament will see the women’s rugby game develop further.”
Rugby, despite being traditionally an aggressive sport associated with masculinity, has seen women’s participation on the rise in Zimbabwe. In recent years, the Lady Cheetahs have been treated as curtain raisers to events, playing second fiddle to their male counterparts, the Cheetahs.
However, the Zimbabwean team still faces some challenges in reaching their full potential. Access to training facilities, corporate sponsorship and basic requirements like team uniforms have not been adequately provided for the women. For the recent championships, the Lady Cheetahs were downing a green and white jersey with animal print, which was appreciated by their fans.
Although the women in rugby are yet to receive equal opportunities with men when representing their country at home and away, the just ended continental showdown proved that the Zimbabwe Rugby is embracing the women in the male-dominated sport.
Zimbabwe squad: Charity Mucucuti (captain), Precious Marange, Peace Sithole, Carol Malenga, Rumbi Chigumba, Constance Ngwende, Sicelumusa Nyoni, Ruvimbo Musere, Margaret Magwaro, Hilda Marange, Simbi Kadye, Wadzanai Chidawa, Delight Mukomondo, Lindiwe Munerenyu, Getrude Masora, Lissy Wasarevhu, Brenda Sarupinda and Patience Harubereki.