South Africa's Rugby Union President has expressed his disappointment with the news that the country will not be represented at the women's sevens competition at the Olympics despite qualifying.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) confirmed this week that the Springbok Women Sevens team would not be competing at the Rio Olympics in 2016, despite achieving the qualifying standard of World Rugby. Kenya will take their place instead.
The Springbok Women won the African qualifying competition in Kempton Park in September to satisfy the criteria of rugby’s world governing body. However, the team did not fulfil the criteria of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) who have applied their policy of not accepting Olympic places for teams if they only qualified via African continental routes, because in most sports they consider the competition to be "too weak" .
With a few exceptions, which have generally come about through tough negotiations with individual sports bodies, they will only accept places won via international competitions. In practice this means that - unless the SARU can negotiate an exception to this policy (and sports such as football and cycling have managed to achieve this) - the South Africa's women team will only ever be able to attend an Olympics if they manage to finish in the top four of the World Series.
“We are extremely disappointed for our Springbok Women,” said the Union's President Oregan Hoskins. “We placed our top players on a full-time programme two years ago and they are trailblazers for professional women’s sport and rugby in South Africa.
“Their appearance at such a showcase sporting occasion would have been inspirational for many young female athletes but it was not to be.”
Mr Hoskins said that SARU would continue with its women’s rugby programme despite the setback.
“Women’s sport is an imperative for national government and an increasing number of young South African women want to try their hand at rugby. We will be there to provide that platform.”
The Springbok Women Sevens team are next planned to be in action in the United States and Canada in March.
The world's top women's sevens players will make history when they become the first rugby players to compete for an Olympic Games medal for 92 years with 12 teams competing over three days between August 6-8 before the men take to sport's biggest stage between August 9-11.