Kenya and Blitzboks aim to help African teams qualify for Olympics

Kenya and South Africa are hoping their success in the HSBC World Sevens Series men’s competition can help one of their fellow African countries when it comes to Olympic qualification.

The top four teams in the men’s and women’s world series in 2019 will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games competition in Tokyo, Japan. Regional continental qualifiers will take place from June to December this year with the winning teams also making it to Tokyo. Finally, a 12-team World Rugby Olympic repechage tournament will be held to give sides a last-ditch chance to be part of the Olympic sevens festival.

“Kenya and South Africa can win qualification to the Olympic Games through the World Series to open up space for lower-ranked teams to contest the single slot reserved for the continent,” Africa Rugby President Abdelaziz Bougja in a statement on Monday.

Kenya want to finish in the top four, along with South Africa, so that a third, or possibly fourth, African team can play in Tokyo. If they fail to achieve a top-four place, it means they will play in the regional qualifiers.

The Kenyans are 13th in the 2019 men’s world series standings with 11 points from three tournaments, still 33 points away from fourth-placed South Africa with sevenlegs remaining. At the Sydney Sevens this weekend, Kenya are grouped with United States, Canada and France in pool B.

Jacob Ojee after scoring a try for Kenya. Photo: World Rugby

The International Olympic Committee said the World Rugby Sevens Series will this season double as a qualifying competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“As we enter an Olympic Games qualifying year, the World Series again promises to be highly competitive as teams look to secure their place at Tokyo 2020,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.

“Rugby sevens’ inclusion in the Olympic Games has had a profound effect on the growth of the sport at all levels. As we enter another Olympic qualifying cycle, there is everything to play for. We have a thrilling HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and also expect the regional association qualification tournaments to be highly competitive.”

At Rio 2016, eventual gold medallists Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England’s men’s sides qualified automatically via the world series while New Zealand, Canada, England and winners Australia advanced from the women’s series.

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