France Sevens used as Olympic trials for Blitzboks
WORLD SERIES ROUND TEN: The Blitzboks will face hosts France in the first round of the Sevens Series at Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse on Friday.
South Africa won the France Sevens in 2006, 2017 and 2018. Siviwe Soyizwapi will play in his 50th tournament of the World Series while Justin Geduld makes his return to the World Series after a 15-month absence due to injury.
The men’s Series has seen five different winners (Australia, Samoa, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand) through the opening nine tournaments.
The gold medal for Rugby Sevens at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris cannot be won in Toulouse in 2023, but don’t tell the Springbok Sevens team that. In fact, according to Blitzboks coach Sandile Ngcobo, their approach is to use this weekend’s France Sevens at Stade Ernst-Wallon as an Olympic trial.
This may sound strange, considering the Blitzboks are seventh on the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series log with two tournaments left, but Ngcobo’s explanation makes perfect sense.
“We had a good look at who we are playing in our pool and realised that it is actually a carbon copy of what can happen at the Olympics,” said Ngcobo.
“Considering next year’s Games, our Pool C is a ‘mini-Olympics’ of its own. Our first game on Friday is against France, who will host next year and is hosting here in Toulouse. They will have massive home support in their opening match, and we expect no favours.
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The #Blitzboks are approaching the #France7s as an Olympic trial run this weekend – more here: https://t.co/tb3a7AS56k 🏅#BlitzIgnite #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/PCZmPWp2uR
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) May 11, 2023
“There will be no other team more motivated to beat you than France and we have them first up on Friday.
“Our second game is against Fiji, the double Olympic gold medal winners, who will be very eager to confirm their qualification status by winning the tournament. Again, we will be tested like no other by their style of play and their desire to do well.”
USA await on Saturday: “They are also not guaranteed qualification and few teams will be so motivated by making it to the Olympics like USA, as they are probably the country with the proudest history and tradition at the Olympic Games in general.
“So, they will be really pumped as well. We will face three teams who will be motivated for different reasons, but all because of the Olympics.
“If we do well here and can qualify for Paris 2024, chances are that we will have to do the same again, only at a different venue. So yes, this is our Olympic trial run, despite us not having confirmed qualification. That said, we are not looking past our first game on Friday, against France in France,” explained Ngcobo.
The Blitzboks need to at least reach the semi-finals in Toulouse to stay in the race for automatic qualification for the Olympic Games. New Zealand and hosts France secured their tickets to Paris 2024 already, with the three remaining spots to be filled over the next two weekends.
Argentina can qualify by making the semi-finals and Fiji can secure their spot by winning the tournament.
New Zealand became the first nation other than hosts France to secure their Paris 2024 Olympic spot in Singapore, and the three remaining spots will be filled over the next two weekends. Argentina can officially qualify this weekend by making the Cup semi-finals, while Fiji can secure their spot by winning the Cup title at Stade Ernest-Wallon on Sunday evening.
New Zealand will meet Uruguay, Kenya and Canada in Pool A, while Singapore runners-up Argentina tackle Great Britain, Spain and the invitational side Germany, who also competed last month in the Challenger Series, in Pool B.
Fiji, bronze medalists in Singapore, face a tricky task with hosts France, South Africa and USA their opponents in Pool C, with Samoa, Australia, Japan and Ireland making up Pool D.
France captain Paulin Riva said: “It’s very exciting for us to play in our home country, and for me I’m very lucky to play in my hometown of Toulouse, so we’re really excited for this weekend. We want to win a tournament, and have had good results so far this season and we have been working very hard ahead of this weekend. We want to win and finish the season in the top three.”
New Zealand, Uruguay, Kenya and Canada will meet in Pool A; Argentina tackle Great Britain, Spain and Germany in Pool B; and Samoa, Australia, Japan and Ireland do battle in Pool D.
(Kick-off is local time)
Friday, May 12
Australia v Japan (12:23)
Samoa v Ireland (12:45)
Uruguay v Kenya (13:07)
New Zealand v Canada (13:29)
Great Britain v Spain (13:51)
Argentina v Germany (14:13)
France v South Africa (14:35)
Fiji 7 v USA (14:57)
Australia v Ireland (17:04)
Samoa v Japan (17:26)
Uruguay v Canada (17:54)
New Zealand v Kenya (18:16)
Great Britain v Germany (18:38)
Argentina v Spain (19:00)
France v USA (20:35)
Fiji v South Africa (21:03)