Lesotho National Rugby Sevens coach, Morapeli Motaung has started preparations for the upcoming 2022 Rugby Africa Regional Sevens tournament by selecting the best players to represent the country.
The regional tournament will be hosted in Mauritius on January 15 and 16, 2022.
Motaung told Newsday Sport that the process started off over the weekend with a two-leg tournament where Motaung selected his best 12 players.
â€œThe association came up with the idea of a tournament in order to assist the technical team to select the best players. The games started on Saturday at Mabote Grounds and are expected to end next weekend at the same venue,â€ said Motaung.
The last time the tournament was held was in 2019 before the Covid-19 induced break, when it was won by the host country Lesotho, which means Likatola Rugby Sevens go into the tournament as defending champions.
The coach said although their position brings a sense of pride, it comes with added pressure as they have to work extra-hard to prove that the first time was not a fluke, hence early preparation is key.
He also acknowledged the fact that it will not be an easy task as most players suitable for the sevens tournament have not been playing for almost two years.
â€œThe selection process is to take two weeks at the most then while we finish the 15 aside league championship, I will have the selected players for training at least twice a week, there after I will be focusing on using the most of December to work with them until we leave for the tournament,â€ Motaung said.
He stated that it is very important for the team to go defend their title in order to improve their World Rugby standings.
â€œOur aim as the technical team is to go there and defend our title, this is important because when we won the tournament in 2019, it was the first step in getting the attention of the world rugby community and indeed they were impressed. Now, we are going there to improve and maintain a good stance,â€ he stated.
He said it would not be easy to select the best players because most of those who won the tournament in 2019 might not be in good shape enough to make the cut.
The other challenge is that though rugby is one of the sporting codes to have resumed smoothly after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in October, only 15-aside had been playing. This means the sevens last saw action in 2019 before Covid-19 ravaged the world.
â€œIt is not going to be an easy journey but we are determined. Most of the players that won the tournament might not be in good shape so thatâ€™s a challenge on its own,â€ he said.
The confirmed countries for next yearâ€™s edition of the sevens are Malawi, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), eSwatini and the hosts, Mauritius. The tournament will be used as a qualifier for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.