This may sound strange, considering the Blitzboks are seventh on the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series log with two tournaments left, but Ngcobo's explanation makes perfect sense.

“We had a good look at who we are playing in our pool and realised that it is actually a carbon copy of what can happen at the Olympics,” said Ngcobo.

“Considering next year’s Games, our Pool C is a ‘mini-Olympics’ of its own. Our first game on Friday is against France, who will host next year and is hosting here in Toulouse. They will have massive home support in their opening match, and we expect no favours.

“There will be no other team more motivated to beat you than France and we have them first up on Friday.

“Our second game is against Fiji, the double Olympic gold medal winners, who will be very eager to confirm their qualification status by winning the tournament. Again, we will be tested like no other by their style of play and their desire to do well.”

USA await on Saturday: “They are also not guaranteed qualification and few teams will be so motivated by making it to the Olympics like USA, as they are probably the country with the proudest history and tradition at the Olympic Games in general.

“So, they will be really pumped as well. We will face three teams who will be motivated for different reasons, but all because of the Olympics.

“If we do well here and can qualify for Paris 2024, chances are that we will have to do the same again, only at a different venue. So yes, this is our Olympic trial run, despite us not having confirmed qualification. That said, we are not looking past our first game on Friday, against France in France,” explained Ngcobo.

The Blitzboks need to at least reach the semi-finals in Toulouse to stay in the race for automatic qualification for the Olympic Games. New Zealand and hosts France secured their tickets to Paris 2024 already, with the three remaining spots to be filled over the next two weekends.

Argentina can qualify by making the semi-finals and Fiji can secure their spot by winning the tournament.

New Zealand, Uruguay, Kenya and Canada will meet in Pool A; Argentina tackle Great Britain, Spain and Germany in Pool B; and Samoa, Australia, Japan and Ireland do battle in Pool D.

SA pool fixtures (all matches live on SuperSport):

Friday, 12 May
14h35: France
21h03: Fiji

Saturday, 13 May
13h49: USA

Selected Stats:

  • South Africa won the HSBC France Sevens in 2006, 2017 and 2018.
  • Siviwe Soyizwapi will play in his 50th tournament of the World Series.
  • Justin Geduld makes his return to the World Series after a 15-month absence due to injury.