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Kenya have become the ninth men’s team to confirm their participation at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after winning the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens 2023 in Harare.
The Shujaa overcame pre-tournament favourites South Africa 17-12 in a tense final and they will now join France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland and USA in the Paris line-up. The final three places will be decided via the Oceania and Asia qualification tournaments and the Olympic repechage tournament.
After the crushing disappointment of missing out on the inaugural HSBC SVNS after a last-gasp, relegation play-off defeat to Canada in London in May, the Kenya squad was all smiles in Harare once the magnitude of what they had achieved had sunk in.
Coach Kevin Wambua was always confident they could make it to a third Olympic Games after participating in Rio and Tokyo and the Shujaa made short work of their day one opponents, Zambia, Namibia, and Nigeria, to top Pool B and reach the quarter-finals.
Kenya were equally clinical in despatching Burkina Faso (26-0) and then hosts Zimbabwe (35-10) as the Shujaa booked their place in the final.
South Africa's march through the pool phase had been equally impressive. Sandile Ngcobo's team scored 120 points and only conceded 14 in a strong day one display, which yielded wins over Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Madagascar, Rosko Specman announcing his return to the international arena with four tries against the Ivorians.
The Blitzboks easily accounted for Nigeria in the quarter-finals (27-0) but they were made to work by Uganda for their place in the final before sealing a 26-14 win.
In the final, the Shujaa took an early lead through Patrick Odongo but trailed 12-7 at the break after conceding tries from Selvyn Davids and Christie Grobbelaar.
Odongo scored again in the second half to level the scores before John Okoth scored the try that sent Kenya to the Olympics.
For South Africa and Uganda, who finished third after a 24-12 win over Zimbabwe in the bronze medal match, the dream of competing at the Olympics is not over as both have qualified for the Olympic repechage tournament.