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Direct Olympic qualification out of Blitzboks’ hands after Toulouse disappointment

Direct Olympic qualification out of Blitzboks’ hands after Toulouse disappointment
Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo during the SA Rugby debrief session at Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on 8 March, 2023 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)

The Blitzboks will likely have to play in the Rugby Africa Sevens Cup in order to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024 after their tied seventh-place finish at the Toulouse Sevens this past weekend.

The Blitzboks will almost certainly have to take the long route for Olympic qualification after their tied seventh-place finish at the Toulouse Sevens this past weekend.

South Africa needed to reach the semi-finals to keep their hopes of direct Olympic qualification alive in the penultimate leg of the series but lost 21-12 to Toulouse runners-up Argentina in the quarterfinal on Saturday.

Before they fell desperately close 21-19 to Australia in the fifth-place semi-final on Sunday.

The result in Toulouse means that Fiji and Argentina have officially qualified for next year’s Paris Olympics, joining World Series champions New Zealand and hosts France.

The Blitzboks will need a capitulation from Australia — who are in the driving seat for the final automatic qualification spot on 125 points — next week in London while they will also need a much-improved performance.

South Africa is currently seventh spot on the Sevens World Series standings with 116 points, equal to Samoa, who are in sixth place.

If South Africa fail to overhaul Australia next week, in London, they will have to win a regional competition to qualify for the Olympics — the first time they will go through this process since Sevens rugby was introduced to the Olympics in 2016.

The Blitzboks playing and having to qualify through the Rugby Africa Sevens Cup has a knock-on effect in Africa, as Kenya who usually qualify for the Olympics through the regional tournament are now also at risk of missing the quadrennial global showpiece — it will likely be a straight-shootout between the two Sevens giants in Africa.

Siviwe Soyizwapi, Blitzboks

Siviwe Soyizwapi of South Africa in action against Argentina on day 2 of the HSBC Canada Sevens at BC Place on 4 March, 2023 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo: David Van Der Sandt/Gallo Images)

Losing in Toulouse

New Zealand claimed their third consecutive Sevens win this weekend — and fifth in total — having clinched Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Sydney Sevens as well this season.

The All Black Sevens clinched the Toulouse title 24-19 over Argentina, while hosts France took the Bronze medal, beating surprise semi-finalists Canada 28-12 in the third-place playoff.

The Blitzboks, meanwhile, put on a better showing than they have at most times this season, this weekend. Although the bounce of the ball didn’t always fall their way.

“I felt at times we did not quite get the rewards,” said head coach Sandile Ngcobo.

“We had two weeks of good preparation in Stellenbosch and the five players coming back into the team integrated well. That showed in this tournament, as the guys came back into those high profile matches and at times did well.”

South Africa started the weekend particularly poorly, thumped 31-7 by France on day one but they bounced back with twin 24-7 wins against Fiji and USA to book their place in the quarterfinals.

“There was frustration, especially in the first game on the opening day when we did not play well at all, but day two started well before we disappointed ourselves against Argentina,” added Ngcobo.

“Against Australia, the bounce of the ball and a call or two did not favour us either and that made the difference.”

South Africa’s hopes of direct qualification for the Olympic Games are not in their hands but, according to Ngcobo, the fleet-footed side won’t give up hope.

“The season is not over for us, so there is still an opportunity to improve, and we are keen to grab it,” added the coach. DM

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