At the end of a fiercely contested competition, Zimbabwe emerged as winners of the Rugby Africa Sevens Championship 2018 after a 17-5 win against red-hot favourites Kenya in the final in Monastir, Tunisia.
It was a remarkable effort from the men from Harare, who were taken to extra time in their semi-final before seeing off defending champions Uganda, 24-19.
Both Zimbabwe and Kenya had unbeaten records heading into the final, in what was a re-run of the 2015 title decider.
Despite losing a man to the sin-bin, it was Zimbabwe who scored the first points of the match through Shingirai Katsvere’s converted try.
Kenya responded with an unconverted try for Cyprian Kuto on the stroke of half-time, but the expected second-half onslaught from the four-time champions never materialised and Zimbabwe went further in front when speedster Tafadzwa Chitokwindo combined with Takudzwa Kumadiro for the Cheetahs’ second try.
Chitokwindo added another try with a minute and a half left on the clock to secure the Cheetahs their third title and first since 2012.
All the pre-tournament predictions were that hat-trick seeking Uganda and seasoned HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series core team Kenya would be involved in a straight shootout for the title.
In winning the African Sevens crown, the Cheetahs not only upset the form book but also helped restore some pride back home after the national 15s team’s disappointing fifth-place finish at the Rugby Africa Gold Cup earlier this year.
“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,” said Zimbabwe coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba.
Back in Harare, the team will quickly throw themselves back into training to prepare for their appearance as an invited team at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens on (30 November-1 December) and HSBC Cape Town Sevens (8-9 December).
Both tournaments will serve as excellent preparation for when the Cheetahs attempt to qualify for the 2020 series via the Hong Kong qualifying tournament in April. Uganda will join them there after a 24-19 win over Madagascar saw them claim the bronze medal.
Zambia, meanwhile, collected the plate in outplaying hosts Tunisia 24-14.