Tough Olympic journey for Cheetahs
Paul Munyuki Sports Reporter
LIFE will not be easy for Zimbabwe Seven’s rugby side, the Cheetahs, if they are to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics following confirmation of the qualifier process by Rugby Africa over the weekend.World Rugby, formerly International Rugby Board, have indicated that the Africa Cup towards the end of the year in South Africa would be used as the main qualifier for the Brazil Games next year.
This will be the first time that rugby will be taking part at the Olympics.
According to a document released by Rugby Africa, only the winners of the Africa Cup will qualify for next year’s edition of the Olympics.
But if defending champions South Africa — who are currently tops in the World Sevens Series standing after three rounds — manage to finish in the top four of the top Sevens tournament , then Africa will have two guaranteed places at the World Cup. The Cheetahs have two tournaments to play this year before they can compete at the Africa Cup set for November, the first being the Hong Kong leg of the World Series and the All-Africa Games set for September in Congo Brazzaville.
According to Rugby Africa, the inaugural Rugby Sevens qualification process will feature a blend of the existing men’s and women’s Series structures, regional competitions and a world play-off, ensuring universal representation and the participation of the best teams and players.
Under the qualification structure for the men’s competition, four nations will qualify from the 2014-15 Sevens World Series, one nation from each of the six World Rugby regional competitions, one from the world play-offs and automatic qualification for hosts Brazil.
The women will follow a similar format with four teams confirmed via the World Rugby women’s Sevens World Series, six from the regional competitions, the world play-off winner and automatic qualification for Brazil.
Eight teams — South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Namibia, Uganda, Madagascar and Senegal — have qualified for this year’s Africa Cup by virtue of them having finished in the top eight of last year’s tournament.
North: Cameroon, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana (June 6-7)
South: Rwanda, Burundi, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Congo (July 26-27; Rwanda)
Final Qualifiers: South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Namibia, Uganda, Madagascar and Senegal plus four others from regional qualifiers (November 7-8; South Africa)
All Africa Games: South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Namibia, Uganda, Madagascar and Senegal plus four others from regional qualifiers (September 5-10 ; Congo Brazzaville).
Women’s Olympic Qualifiers: South Africa, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Senegal, Namibia, Morocco (September 26-27; South Africa)