Blitzboks have one final chance to qualify for Paris

rugby09 May 2024 07:00
By:Brenden Nel
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Olympics Sevens Qualifying Tournament fixtures

South Africa’s hopes of qualifying for the Paris Olympics in Sevens rugby comes down to one weekend in Monaco where there is one final place available, but it won’t be easy.

The Blitzboks nightmare season in the HSBC Sevens may have been stopped by a change of coach and a reset within the team, but they still haven’t qualified for Paris 2024 and have a final, last-gasp chance to do so.

After their shock loss to Kenya in the African Cup Sevens - which serves as the qualifier for Paris 2024 - a few months back, the Blitzboks were given the lifeline of the repechage tournament, which will be held in Monaco from June 21-23.

In past Olympics, the top four teams on the HSBC Sevens Circuit have gained automatic qualification for the Olympics, but the fall in form last season meant that the Blitzboks ended seventh and therefore didn’t qualify via their normal route.

France qualified as the host nation, while New Zealand, Fiji, Argentina and Australia took the four qualifying berths on offer.

Uruguay took the South American qualifying spot by winning the tournament in Montevideo, while Ireland won the European Games in Krakow to qualify via that route. The USA booked their spot through the RAN games in Langford, Canada while Samoa won the Oceania qualifying tournament.

Japan won the Asian qualifying tournament and Kenya’s shock win in Harare in September last year saw them take the African place.

With all this in mind, there is just one place left for the Olympics and the Blitzboks’ pools were drawn last month where they will face tough opposition for that spot from Great Britain and Spain in particular.

Great Britain were losing semifinalists in Singapore last weekend where the Blitzboks exited in the quarterfinals.

In Monaco, the Blitzboks are the top seeds in Pool A, which includes Tonga, Chile and Mexico, and they should be expected to top the pool and go into the Cup competition.

But this is where it gets tricky as only one team can qualify.

Great Britain are in a pool with Canada, Uganda and China and are expected to top that pool while Spain have Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Brazil in their group.

Anything less than a victory will see the Blitzboks lose out on a place at the Paris Olympics.

As the HSBC World Series moves to Madrid for its final tournament, the Blitzboks will need a good showing to avoid the ignominy of finishing last. Currently in seventh spot, the same as last season, they are a good 15 points ahead of eighth placed Great Britain, and at least missed out on the playoffs for core team status.

The top eight will compete in the finale in Madrid while places 9-12 will have to face off with the top four teams in the Challenge second tier Series to determine who is on the circuit next season.