The Star Late Edition
Olympics dress rehearsal for Blitzboks in Toulouse
THE Blitzboks will use this weekend’s France Sevens in Toulouse as a trial for the 2024 Olympic Games in
Paris, according to coach Sandile Ngcobo.
This may sound strange, considering the Blitzboks are seventh on the World Sevens Series log with two tournaments left, but Ngcobo has an explanation.
“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,” he said.
“Considering next year’s Games, our Pool C is a ‘mini-Olympics’ of its own. Our first game on Friday (today) is against France, who will host next year and are hosting here in Toulouse.
“They will have massive home support in their opening match and we expect no favours.
“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. They will be very eager to confirm their qualification status by winning the tournament. We will be tested like no other by their style of play and their desire to win.”
Tomorrow, the Blitzboks play the United States.
“They are also not guaranteed qualification (for the Olympics) and will be highly motivated as they are probably the country with the proudest history at the Olympic Games in general,” Ngcobo said.
“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, the 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.”
The Blitzboks need to at least reach the semi-finals in Toulouse to stay in the race for automatic qualification for the Olympics.
New Zealand and hosts France have already secured their tickets to Paris 2024, 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, 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.
Blitzboks pool fixtures in Toulouse Today: v France, 2.35pm; v Fiji, 9.03pm Tomorrow: v US, 1.49pm