Spain's stunning South Africa upset boosts Australia's Olympic hopes after Singapore bounce back

Sun, Apr 9, 2023, 12:09 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The history of Rugby Sevens explained

Australia’s hopes of qualification for the Paris Olympics have received a major boost after finishing fifth in Singapore.

It comes as South Africa, who sat in the final automatic qualifying spot for next year's Games at the start of the weekend, had a nightmare tournament, headlined by a shock defeat to Spain.

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It allows the Aussies to jump them with two events remaining as the World Series continues to throw up wild results.

John Manenti’s side produced the type of defensive performance that won them the World Series last year to defeat the Blitzboks 19-0 to kick off Singapore.

It secured their place in the quarter-finals despite going down to eventual champions New Zealand and ultimately eliminated South Africa from the knock-out stages.

The Commonwealth champions South Africans held off Ireland in the ninth-place quarter-finals before the stunning boilover by ‘Los Leones’, Spain's first win over the powerhouses.

The South Africans looked to be cruising into the ninth-place final after an early try to Siviwe Soyizwapi, only for tries on Spain to score either side of the break through Pol Pla and Juan Ramos for a shock 12-5 lead.

The scoreline remained the same when Australian Jordan Way blew time, leading to emotional scenes for Spain, fighting to avoid a relegation playoff.

Whilst Australia went down to Argentina in the quarter-finals, who were defeated 19-12 by the All Black Sevens in the Final, their wins over Great Britain and Uruguay coupled with South Africa’s struggles has bolstered their hopes of auto-qualifying for the Olympics.

Darby Lancaster and Nathan Lawson were two key standouts for the Australians, with Lancaster scoring a double in the 24-21 win over Great Britain to secure fifth whilst Lawson managed four tries in their three pool games.

They hold onto fifth on the overall standings by a point over Samoa after Fiji engineered a remarkable comeback to defeat their rivals in the bronze medal match. 

South Africa sits six points adrift of Australia, making the path to Olympic qualification clearer for John Manenti’s men even if Samoa leapfrog them in London and Toulouse.

The top five will qualify automatically for Paris as the French currently holds onto third position.

If the two teams were to flip positions, Australia will have to qualify through an Oceania tournament like 2018. However, the prospect of New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji in automatic spots leaves the Aussies likely only having to beat invitational teams Tonga or Papua New Guinea to book their spot.

If South Africa manages to leapfrog the pair, then the two would likely face off later in the year, with the loser forced to test their luck in a final qualifying event in 2024.

Manenti’s side will be pushing to do it on their own accord and will be encouraged by their bounce back, only dropping games to the top two sides and eventual finalists.

Australia will take on Samoa in the pool stages in Toulouse on May 12-14, with the teams drawn alongside Ireland and Japan in Pool D.

Meanwhile, South Africa face yet another ‘Pool of Death’ as they take on Fiji, France and USA, all ranked inside the top eight.


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