WORLD SEVENS SERIES

Tokyo Olympics: Pool C preview

Four teams, South Africa, USA, Kenya 7s and Ireland will go head-on in pool C as they battle for a place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics quarters.

Scrummage takes a look at Pool C where Kenya have been grouped.

South Africa

South Africa finished the 2016 edition as bronze medalists. They won two matches to top pool B which had France, Australia and Spain. In the quarters, they saw off Australia before falling narrowly to Great Britain in the semi-final. They later whipped Japan 54-14 for a podium finish.

Neil Powell coached side qualified for the 2020 Olympics after a top-four finish in the World 7s Series 2018/19 season. The Blitzboks had a nearly fantastic season in the interrupted 2020 World 7s Series, finishing second overall after being crowned Champions in the Dubai 7s and Los Angeles 7s.

2021 has been full of challenges for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 World 7s Series Champions. They were scheduled to have a warm-up tournament in Madrid but they could not honour the invitation. The South Africans were locked out of the tournament after the national government of Spain extended their COVID-19 related travel restrictions on a number of countries, including South Africa.

They have had one build-up tournament which was the Rugby Africa Solidarity 7s. They won both the first and second leg of the tournament beating Kenya 7s 31-7 and 31-5 in the finals played at Markötter Stadium in Stellenbosch in May 2021. They just lost one of their nine matches in the competition. The defeat was against SA 2 in the second leg encounterer.

SA’s entry to Japan has not been smooth either, as they were put into isolation upon arrival in Tokyo following a positive COVID case on their inbound flight. After they were cleared for Kagoshima camp, they were dealt a blow after head coach Powell tested positive for COVID-19 and he must isolate for 14 days. Testing positive means he will not be on the sidelines when they go for gold from July 26-28. Assistant coach Renfred Dazel will be in charge of the team.

The Tournament favourites have picked a good squad that has a combined total of 339 World Series tournaments between them, but only Justin Geduld has experienced the hype of the Olympics before. With the likes of Selvyn Davids, Angelo Davids Stedman Gans and Branco du Preez in their squad, they will be eyeing to better their 2016 performance.

Squad:Chris Dry, Sakoyisa Makata, Impi Visser, Zain Davids, Angelo Davids, JC Pretorius, Branco du Preez, Selvyn Davids, Justin Geduld, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain), Stedman Gans, Ronald Brown

USA

USA finished ninth in the 2016 edition after missing out on the quarters following a third-place finish in pool Pool A. Mike Friday charges qualified for Tokyo after a second-place finish in the 2018/19 World 7s Series.

The 2020 season which was cut short saw them finish seventh while in 2021 they have warmed up for the Olympics by featuring in the two-legged Madrid 7s and hosted Quest for Gold 7s where they won three matches out of the six played.

Seven players in the 12-man squad will be featuring in the Olympics for the second time. The seven include speedsters, Perry Baker, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes, Ben Pinkelman. With a squad that has prior Olympics experience, Mike Friday will be aiming for the highest.

Squad: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Maceo Brown Tempe, Madison Hughes (capt.), Martin Iosefo, Carlin Isles, Matai Leuta Monterey, Folau Niua, Joe Schroeder, Stephen Tomasin, Kevon Williams

Kenya 7s

Shujaa booked a place in the Olympics after whipping Uganda 31-0 in the Rugby Africa Cup which also served as the qualification route to the Olympics for the African Continent.

The 2020 World 7s Series campaign saw the side then under coach Paul Feeney pick just 35 points in the campaign after six rounds.

They later parted ways with Feeney and re-appointed Innocent Simiyu to lead them in the 2021 and 2022 campaigns. Simiyu has participated in three tournaments that had two legs each.

Shujaa played in two finals at Madrid 7s and lost both to Argentina, played one final at Emirates 7s as Argentina proved to be superior. They also played in two finals at the Solidarity and lost all to south Africa.

The team which has been camping at Kasarani for their Olympics preparations skipped the Quest for Gold 7s.

Simiyu chose an experienced squad for the Olympics, retaining four players Collins Injera, Willy Ambaka, Billy Odhiambo and Andrew Amonde who are 2016 Olympians.

The Tokyo Olympics will be the first major tournament for Simiyu since his re-appointment. The former Shujaa star will be keen to start off strongly. Shujaa will be seeking to rise from the dismal performance witnessed in the 2016 Olympics.

Squad: Andrew Amonde (Capt.), Alvin Otieno, Vincent Onyala, Herman Humwa, Collins Injera, Daniel Taabu, Willy Ambaka, Johnstone Olindi, Eden Agero, Jeffrey Oluoch, Nelson Oyoo, Jacob Ojee, Billy Odhiambo

Ireland

The Irishmen were the last side to qualify for the Olympics. They did it in style, winning all their matches in the Repechage tournament to reach their first-ever Olympics. The side had had an impressive debut at World 7s Series in the 2020 season finishing 10th after six legs where they bagged 49 points.

Besides the Repechage tournament, they hosted HPC International 7s which also served as the Olympics warm-up.

Ireland will be captained in Tokyo by Billy Dardis, the man who has spearheaded his team’s dramatic rise in international rugby sevens.

Dardis is joined by other seasoned campaigners such as Harry McNulty, who has played more than 50 World Series matches, last season’s World Series top try-scorer Jordan Conroy and Terry Kennedy. Adam Leavy, the brother of Ireland 15s international Dan, is also named in the squad.

Squad: Jordan Conroy, Billy Dardis (Capt.), Ian Fitzpatrick, Foster Horan, Jack Kelly, Terry Kennedy, Adam Leavy, Hugo Lennox, Harry McNulty, Gavin Mullin, Greg O’Shea, Mark Roche, Bryan Mollen (13th player)

Fixtures in EAST African Time

Monday 26 July

Men 5 Pool C: South Africa vs Ireland-5:00 AM
Men 6 Pool C: USA vs Kenya 7s5:30 AM

Men 11 Pool C: USA vs Ireland-12:30 PM
Men 12 Pool C: South Africa vs Kenya 7s1:00 PM

Tuesday 27 July

Men 17 Pool C: Kenya 7s vs Ireland5:00 AM
Men 18 Pool C: South Africa vs USA-5:30 AM

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