NAIROBI, December 16- Kenya Lionesses will join their male Kenya Sevens counterparts; Shujaa, in the flight to the 2016 Rio Olympics after World Rugby confirmed they will be the second local team to participate at the quadrennial sporting showpiece.
The news comes as a big boost to women’s sevens rugby who will share a platform of history with Shujaa who qualified for Rio by winning the African qualifiers in South Africa last month at the occasion where the shorter version of the game will make its Olympics debut.
The announcement follows confirmation by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to the South African Rugby Union and World Rugby that it does not intend to accept a place at the Games, which the Sprinboks Womens Sevens women earned via the Africa regional qualifier.
Kenya, who were runners-up in the qualification tournament held at Kempton Park in September, will now compete at Rio 2016 after the National Olympic Committee of Kenya accepted the position in accordance with the Olympic Games qualification rules.
“It is with great excitement that we welcome Kenya to the global line-up of women’s teams for the rugby sevens competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”
“Kenya are at the forefront of women’s rugby in Africa and we look forward to seeing them representing their nation and the African region at the Games alongside the men’s team. Excitement is building after a breath-taking start to the women’s and men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and all roads lead to Rio and a game-changing Games for rugby,” World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said.
Despite fulfilling the World Rugby requirements, Sprinboks Womens Sevens did not fulfill the criteria of the SASCOC to be included in their country’s contingent for the Olympics.
“We are extremely disappointed for our Springbok Women. 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,” SASCOC’s Oregan Hoskins said, pledging the women’s sevens programme in the country will continue in spite of the setback.
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 6-8 August before the men take to sport’s biggest stage between 9-11 August.
Both competitions will be played at the purpose-built rugby sevens venue in the Deodoro complex and, with tickets selling fast, fans are urged to secure their opportunity to see the world’s top sevens players in action as rugby makes Olympic Games history.