Sat Sep 23 16:39:54 CAT 2017

Blitzbokke all clear for the Olympics

By Craig Ray | 2016-07-28 11:06:00.0

After doing everything asked of them by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), the Blitzboks jetted to Rio for the Olympics in buoyant mood yesterday.

Despite winning the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sascoc placed a stringent qualifying criteria on the SA Sevens team.

The body insisted that the Blitzboks had to claim one of the four automatic Rio berths during the 2014-15 World Sevens Series season. Neil Powell's men duly delivered by finishing second overall that season and earned their ticket.

The luxury of knowing a year in advance that they would be in Rio allowed Powell the chance to experiment during the 2015-16 season by using more players than in previous years.

The coach tried fifteens specialists such as Ryan Kankowski, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh and Francois Hougaard. Only De Jongh made the final 12-man cut with Hougaard on standby as one of two formal reserves.

Powell also brought in unknowns such as Dylan Sage at the start of the year.

"We are very excited to be part of the Olympic Games and finally travel to Rio," Powell said. "I must admit we are also a bit nervous. We know that in a once-off tournament like this, everyone is in with a chance to win it.

"If you are not 110% ready by the time the first match starts then it can become a very tough tournament for you. This is an exciting challenge, though, and we have a great group of guys here to embrace that."

The South Africans face Spain, France and Australia in Pool B of the competition. The Blitzboks face Spain in their opening match on August 9 at 4.30pm (SA time) and play France at 9.30pm to conclude the day's programme. - TMG Digital