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Rugby Sevens: Olympic qualifiers speak of ‘dream come true’

Samisoni Viriviri poses with Fiji fans after his side’s win over New Zealand. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima.

Samisoni Viriviri poses with Fiji fans after his side’s win over New Zealand. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima.

May 12, 2015: Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau has spoken of the importance of securing Olympic qualification at the weekend, despite the team also trying to win the HSBC Sevens World Series for the first time since 2006.

 

On Sunday, Fiji beat New Zealand to win the Glasgow Sevens and overtake South Africa at the top of the standings with one round left to play. However, all three teams were left quietly celebrating after securing their places in the Rio Olympics by ensuring they would finish in the top four in the 2014-15 series.

 

South Africa and Fiji, the top two teams in the series heading into the Series’ penultimate round, were the first to make history on Saturday by booking their places in the Cup quarter-finals, so mathematically ensuring they would finish in the top four.

 

Rugby sevens is the national sport in Fiji and Kolinisau described the importance of securing a spot in Rio as the sport returns to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years.

 

“We have made it to Rio. It has been a long road and there are plenty of top teams in the Series, but we have worked hard towards it,” Kolinisau said. “The boys are very proud of making it to Rio and it means a lot to Fiji as a whole because it is the first time a team will go to the Olympics with a chance of a medal. It is a dream come true to be an Olympian.”

 

South Africa’s Frankie Horne also spoke of the honour of helping his country reach Rio, where Brazil automatically qualify as hosts.

 

“It’s a big moment for us and we are very privileged to have made it this far,” Horne said. “We have worked hard this season to qualify and it’s an historical event for the game of sevens to be in the Olympics. We thoroughly deserve it, but it’s a great privilege and a great honour for us to be there and represent the game of sevens.”

 

New Zealand’s Olympic status was confirmed on Sunday morning after Australia failed to make the Cup semi-final following defeat to USA, ahead of New Zealand’s quarter-final with hosts Scotland.

 

Sir Gordon Tietjens, the legendary New Zealand coach, said: “The World Series was important, but qualification for the Olympics was the goal. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to finish in that top four, so to know we’re there is really pleasing and you can start seeing yourself going to Rio now.”

 

Focus now turns to the Series’ final round at Twickenham in London where the season’s champions will be crowned and the fourth and final qualification place confirmed.

 

England currently occupy fourth spot and are 16 points ahead of fifth-placed Australia. Should the hosts make the Cup quarter-finals or if Australia fail to reach the last eight, the hosts will confirm Team GB’s qualification. The London event will also showcase the third-place play-off and final from the penultimate round of the Women’s Sevens Series.

 

Bernard Lapasset, Chairman of World Rugby, said: “This is an exciting and major milestone as we countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and I would like to congratulate South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand for achieving the dream of representing rugby on sport’s greatest stage.

 

“We now look forward to the men’s and women’s tournaments in London next weekend when we will see further teams book their tickets to Rio 2016.”

 

Source: World Rugby (www.worldrugby.org); Editing by SportAsia

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