South Africa will play the USA, Kenya and Ireland in Pool C of the Rugby Sevens event of the Tokyo Olympic Games next month, World Rugby announced earlier on Monday.
South Africa, bronze medallists in Rio in 2016, and the USA have both achieved direct Olympic qualification by finishing in the top four of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2019, where the Eagles finished runners-up after reaching the medal podium in seven of the 10 rounds.
Joining them are Kenya, who qualified courtesy of their first Rugby Africa men’s sevens title since 2015, and Olympic debutants Ireland, who secured the final spot thanks to a thrilling 28-19 victory over France in the World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco earlier this month.
Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell was not surprised to learn of their pool opponents in Tokyo.
“It is a very challenging group, no doubt,” said Powell.
“The Kenyans are very physical, the USA showed how good they are when they finished second in the World Series a while back and Ireland have shown they can beat any team on the day.”
The Blitzboks’ first opponents at Tokyo Stadium will be Ireland, a team that had many tournament warm-ups leading up to the world showpiece, but that does not influence their planning, Powell said.
“We will have to focus on ourselves,” said Powell.
“They have played much more than us, yes, but that is not something we are going to worry about. We have our plans and if we execute, we will have a good start.”
Powell said they aim to top their pool: “The top eight teams will go through to play-offs, which means the top two in each group and two best third-placed teams will make it.
“Our aim will be to top the pool because then you control your own destiny. We will then be ready for whatever the play-offs deliver.”