What you need to know:
- Winners will join already qualified France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland and USA.
- The dream will not be over for the runners-up or the winners of the third-place play-off, either, with both qualifying for the Olympic repechage tournament.
It is time to separate the men from the boys as 12 nations converge at Harare Sports Club, Harare in Zimbabwe for the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens 2023 this weekend that will earn the champions passage to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
South Africa will be favourites but Kenya may want to have a say, and perhaps Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Record African champions Kenya have a date with easy-looking, but tricky customers Nigeria, Namibia and Zambia in Pool “B”.
Pool “A” has favourites South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire while Pool “C” contains Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Algeria.
The top two teams from each pool, as well as the two best third-place finishers, will qualify for tomorrow’s quarter-finals. Tournament winners will earn the automatic African ticket to the Paris Olympic Games.
Shujaa coach Kevin ‘Bling’ Wambua said they aimed to finish top in their pool and then craft who to tackle the knock-outs.
Having competed at the first two editions of rugby sevens at the Olympics in Brazil (2016) and Japan (2020), five-time former Africa winners Kenya will be keen to launch their campaign on a high against 2012 bronze medallists Nigeria.
Kenya last played Nigeria in this tournament in 2016 at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi, winning 33-5.
“We have already done our analysis on the opponents we are meeting first and know where to exploit them,” said KCB’s Samuel Asati who is one of the six new faces in Shujaa team alongside Nygel Amaitsa (Strathmore Leos), William Mwanji (Kabras Sugar), Beldad Ogeta (Menengai Oilers), Patrick Odongo (Daystar Falcons) and Festus Shiasi (KCB).
Kenya and 2022 Commonwealth Games and former World Rugby Sevens Series champion South Africa have appeared at both Olympic men’s sevens tournaments since rugby’s reintroduction to the Games at Rio 2016.
They will face tough competition in Harare where the dozen are fighting for places in the Olympics 2024 and World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2024.
Algeria won the qualifying tournament in Mauritius in June to secure their place in Harare alongside Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, who finished second and third respectively.
Winners will join already qualified France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland and USA.
The dream will not be over for the runners-up or the winners of the third-place play-off, either, with both qualifying for the Olympic repechage tournament.
Wambua, who got a major boost following speedster Vincent Onyala’s return from a long injury, is confident his side has what it takes to complete a hat-trick of Olympic appearances.
“The primary goal is to perform strongly in the pool stage and secure a top position by the end of day one, ultimately advancing to the quarter-finals,” Wambua said earlier in the week.
Pool A: South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia, Ivory Coast
Pool B: Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria
Pool C: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Algeria
Order of Play for Saturday (from 10.00am onwards)
Zimbabwe v Burkina Faso, Uganda v Algeria, Zambia v Namibia, Kenya v Nigeria (11.06am), Madagascar v Tunisia, South Africa v Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe v Algeria, Uganda v Burkina Faso, Zambia v Nigeria, Kenya v Namibia (1.50pm), Madagascar v Ivory Coast, South Africa v Tunisia, Burkina Faso v Algeria, Namibia v Nigeria, Kenya v Zambia (4.34pm), Tunisia v Ivory Coast, South Africa v Madagascar, Uganda v Zimbabwe.