Olympic qualification main priority for Blitzboks in 2018/19 season
Olympic qualification is the Blitzboks’ first priority in the 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series‚ which kicks off in five weeks’ time.
The South Africans are the defending Series champions‚ having won the title twice in a row.
But finishing in the top four on the standings ensures qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics‚ where the Blitzboks are hoping to improve on their bronze medal showing in Rio two years ago.
“We have set ourselves a number of goals‚ with the Olympic qualification the obvious one‚” coach Neil Powell said after the draw was announced in London on Wednesday.
“But we are also defending our title in Dubai [the season-opening tournament] and in the World Series and those are two trophies we would not mind winning again.”
The Pool draws for Dubai were also made at the ceremony and SA will face southern African neighbors Zimbabwe in their opening match of the season.
They have further tough games against Argentina and Samoa.
SA are the first seeds for the opening tournament.
“We have seen the gap between teams disappearing to almost nothing‚ so every game in every tournament will demand a very good effort from us.
"We have done well in Dubai over the years‚ but that will count for nothing‚” said Powell.
“Zimbabwe will be very competitive‚ having won the Rugby Africa Sevens tournament recently‚ Samoa beat us last time we played them‚ and Argentina are one of the most difficult teams to play against because of their skill and physicality.
“So we have a lot to do when we start with the final phase of our preparations on Monday‚ but at least we now know what we are preparing for. It is exciting times for all of us.”
The pools for the Dubai tournament are:
Pool A: South Africa‚ Argentina‚ Samoa‚ Zimbabwe
Pool B: Fiji‚ Kenya‚ Scotland‚ France
Pool C: New Zealand‚ USA‚ Spain‚ Wales
Pool D: Australia‚ England‚ Canada‚ Japan