Australia and France stake their claim to Olympic gold
The stakes in the race for gold in the sevens at the Paris Olympics in 2024, have just been raised considerably with Michael Hooper and Antoine Dupont announcing that they will play for their countries.
But, so far, SA Rugby has not responded.
In case any South African sports lover needs reminding, the Olympics is the pinnacle of achievement in athletics.
It comes around once every four years. Not only is it an opportunity for South African sevens rugby to shine, but it is also one of the few realistic opportunities for South Africa to win gold.
The downward slope of South African sevens can be traced back to the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021) when South Africa wasted a gold medal shot to end up with no medal at all.
Since then they have consistently gone backwards.
Now, South Africa has another chance, but they will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make it happen.
But where things stand at the moment, the Blitzboks are running the very real risk of not even qualifying for the Games. South Africa are fighting for survival and a place in the top 12 teams to compete at the Games.
A far cry from the Blitzboks that beat England in 2017 and then Fiji in 2018 to be the HSBC sevens champions of those years.
And it gets more difficult every day.
Michael Hooper, one of the most inspirational captains in Wallabies rugby, who was dramatically (and stupidly) dropped by Eddie Jones from the World Cup rugby squad, has made himself available for the Australian sevens side to compete in sevens next year.
Frenchman Antoine Dupont, considered by many to be the greatest active rugby player in the world, has made himself available for France to contest the sevens at the Olympics in Paris 2024.
While South Africa so far has not shown any interest in the Blitzboks sevens team, and remarkably doesn’t even seem to care about Olympic gold, the race is hotting up.
Hooper and Dupont are the first, but rumour has it that two England World Cup players will be seen at the Olympics.
Fiji, where sevens, and not Rugby Union, is the national sport, will be ready to hit their straps at exactly the right moment.
Nobody knows what New Zealand will do, but you can bet your brand-new rugby boots it’s going to be spectacular.
South Africa? Imagine Cheslin Kolbe, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach, Kurt-Lee Arendse or even Sacha Mngomezulu standing up to be counted. Imagine that!
But then, maybe to the powers that be, that doesn’t matter. See them standing in their ivory tower and going: “Olympics? Meh!”
Pictured above: Michael Hooper and Antoine Dupont.
Image source: X