Kenya wins Japan 2020 Olympics ticket as Black Stallions finish eighth
The South Africa Sevens Championship, which also doubles as the 2020 Japan Olympics qualifier, was the Black Stallions’ first appearance since 2016, owing to a ban on Nigeria by the World Rugby body in 2017.
The Black Stallions entered the tournament as the last ranked team (14) and had to face defending champions, Zimbabwe in their opening game. The Nigerian side was impressive all through the match as they led 14-12 at half time. The match ended 24-21 in favour of Zimbabwe, which immediately took Nigeria into the championship’s top eight spots as the best loser of the first round of matches.
Seven matches were played early on Day 1, with the seven winners plus the best loser (Nigeria) advancing to the championship phase of the tournament, while the bottom six faced off in the trophy phase.
Nigeria, again, lost to Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Zambia, and Senegal in their remaining games.
The eighth position means that Nigeria automatically qualified for next year’s Africa Cup Sevens and the HSBC Sevens qualifiers.
The Guardian recalls that Nigeria were relegated in 2017 following their ban by World Rugby body. Thereafter, the Stallions had to play from the lower level to the top for two years.
They beat Super 16 champions, Niger Republic 59-13 in Niamey in August 2018 to move into the Africa North Regional Sevens in Cote d’Ivoire in September 2018. The Black Stallions finished as runners up (tournament’s best team) to earn a place in this year’s Africa Cup Sevens and also a ticket for the 2023 World Cup qualifiers against Madagascar next month.
The champions of this year’s sevens tournament, Kenya, defeated Madagascar in the semifinal before outshining Uganda in the final to pick up their second straight 2020 Japan Olympics qualification ticket.
Zimbabwe beat Madagascar in the third-place play off to earn a place in a repêchage tournament to keep their Olympics hope alive.
Host South Africa did not take part as they have already qualified for the Olympics automatically through last year’s HSBC Sevens Tournament.
14 teams took part in the South Africa Sevens Championship.
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