Nigeria Rugby Sevens Team finished in 8th place in the Africa Cup Sevens which held at the Bosman Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa over the weekend.
The Black Stallions who were making their first appearance at the Africa Cup since 2016 following a ban on Nigeria by World Rugby in 2017 entered the tournament which also doubled as Japan 2020 Olympic Qualifiers as the lowest-ranked of the fourteen participating teams.
But despite their lowly ranking and having to face top-ranked Zimbabwe twice, the Black Stallions still managed a finish which guaranteed them automatic qualification for next year’s Africa Cup Sevens / HSBC Sevens qualifiers.
The Black Stallions were impressive in losing 24-21 to the Zimbabweans in their opening game and that result earned them best loser status which took Nigeria into the championship top 8 spot.
Seven matches were played on Day 1 with the seven winners plus the best losers (Nigeria) advancing to the Championship phase of the tournament while the bottom six faced off in the Trophy phase.
The Stallions who lost Samuel Akpabio to injury in the first match later went on to lose to Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Zambia and Senegal.
While the scope of improvement remains wide, competing in the tournament is a sign of the amount of progress the country has made since they were banned by World Rugby in 2016 and suffered relegation as a consequence.
The Black Stallions route to redemption saw them defeat Super 16 Champions Niger Republic 59-13 in Niamey in August 2018 which qualified them into the Africa North Regional Sevens in Ivory Coast in September 2018 where they finished as runners up ( and were adjudged the tournament’s best team) to earn a place in this year’s Africa Cup Sevens and also set up a 2023 World Cup Qualification match against Madagascar on 1 December.
Kenya dispatched Madagascar in the semi-final of the Africa Cup Sevens before beating Uganda in the final to pick up their second straight Olympic spot.
Zimbabwe beat Madagascar in the third-place playoff to earn a place in a repêchage tournament to keep their Olympics hope alive.
South Africa who had already qualified for the Olympics through last year’s HSBC Sevens Tournament did not compete.
2019 Africa Men’s Sevens 2019 Final Ranking
1 Kenya – KE
2 Uganda – UG
3 Zimbabwe – ZW
4 Madagascar – MG
5 Namibia – NA
6 Zambia – ZM
7 Senegal – SN
8 Nigeria – NG
9 Ghana- GH
10 Morocco – MA
11 Tunisia – TN
12 Côte D’Ivoire – CI
13 Mauritius – MU
14 Botswana – BW