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South Africa and Great Britain set for ‘ruthless’ day at Olympic qualifier

By Finn Morton
South Africa are still in the mix to qualify for the Paris Olympics. Picture: World Rugby.

South Africa and Great Britain have set themselves up for a “ruthless” final day at the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco as the Olympic hopes of eight men’s and women’s teams come down to this.

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With Their Serene Highness Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco watching on, the 22 teams in the competition battled it for an all-important spot in the quarter-finals. Only eight nations have moved on to the respective women’s and men’s knockout rounds.

SVNS Series sides South Africa, Great Britain and Spain will take plenty of confidence into Sunday after maintaining unbeaten records through pool play. The Blitzboks will play Uganda, Canada will face Chile and Spain are set for a blockbuster with Hong Kong China.

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The Blitzboks booked their spot in the next round with a 31-7 win over Tonga, which saw SVNS Series Rookie of the Year nominee Quewin Nortje score a double. Spain’s Pol Pla got on the scoreboard as they ran away with a 35-14 win over second-place Hong Kong China.

In the third of the four men’s quarter-final matchups, Great Britain will come up against Tonga but it could’ve been a very different story. GB only topped Pool B after overcoming Canada 17-12 in a thriller.

The Brits went down to six men but stood tall in defence in the final two minutes to keep their winning streak alive. They’ll take on Tonga in a knockout clash which will either see them remain alive in the Olympic race or bring their season to a close.

“It’s a case of job done so far. Three wins from three is what we wanted and gives us a bit of momentum going into the knockout matches,” Great Britain captain Robie Ferguson said in a statement.

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“It was always going to be a bit of a sticky group phase because everyone knows what t means and we’re three games away from the Olympics so we’re into a big day on Sunday now teed up as well as possible.

“We’ll rest up tonight and fly into tomorrow now.

“This is what everyone’s season comes down to. The Olympics is the pinnacle and it comes only once every four years, so for it to come down to one day tomorrow is pretty ruthless but that’s sport at the end of the day.”

In the women’s side of the draw, China reinforced why they’re widely considered the favourites to win the Olympics repechage with a 55-nil win over Mexico on day one and another two statement wins on the second day of play.

China will take on Paraguay for a spot in the semi-finals, with Uganda playing Czechia, Kenya taking on Argentina and Poland competing with Hong Kong China in the quarters. Kenya and Argentina played out a Pool D thriller earlier in the tournament.

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The quarter-finals get underway at 9:30 am local time (GMT+2), with the semi-finals beginning at 2:22 pm. The women’s and men’s finals will kick off at 6:01 pm and 6:36 pm respectively.

After the repechage event, the Paris 2024 Olympic rugby sevens pool will be announced.

Fans can watch the repechage tournament live and free on RugbyPass TV. Sign up Here.

The Women's Rugby World Cup 2025 is coming to England. Register now here to be the first to hear about tickets.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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