Leading South African rugby personalities on Thursday joined the worldwide chorus of rallying calls for the International Olympic Committee to include Sevens in the Olympic Games.
The IOC meets in Copenhagen on Friday to decide whether to ratify the recommendation of their Executive that Sevens rugby and golf should become Olympic sports.
Decorated Springbok captain John Smit, former SA captain and Bok Sevens star Bob Skinstad, Fabian Juries, the most capped SA Sevens player and World Series-winning Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu have all urged the IOC to endorse Sevens as an Olympic sport.
Smit said: “Olympic representation is the next logical step for Sevens rugby given the huge strides that have been made over the past decade since the introduction of the IRB Series. Increased exposure to top level competition has enabled countries like Kenya, Portugal and Morocco to improve greatly and Olympic participation will have similar benefits for other countries which are using Sevens as a base to establish and grow rugby.
“Sevens has been fantastic for the development of individual talent with many exciting players first making their mark in the shortened version of the game before going on to greater achievements in their careers. Sevens rugby will enrich the Olympic Games and make it even greater than it is. The IRB bid for Olympic recognition, therefore, deserves the support of all who cherish the game of Rugby”.
Smit led the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory in 2007 and earlier this year to Vodacom Tri-Nations and Lions Tour honours. Under his captaincy, the team has won with the prestigious IRB Team of the Year Award on two occasions (2004 & 2007).
Skinstad credited Sevens for playing an instrumental role in the shaping of his international career.
“Sevens is ideal for the honing of a players’ skill because of the high level of intensity and the finesse that it demands from an individual to succeed. The pace and excitement makes it a very enjoyable sport to watch and Olympic status would give the sport a fantastic global showcase.
“The Olympics is a gathering of the finest athletes in the world and it would be awesome for rugby players to perform on the same platform,” said Skinstad.
He played in the Sevens World Cups of 1997 and 2001 and in the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup tournaments of 1999 and 2007.
Juries is the most-capped SA Sevens player having played in 48 IRB tournaments and he believes the time is right for Sevens to be awarded Olympic status.
“Sevens is played on all continents and in front of a big world television audience. The sport is vibrant and attractive and would be a popular addition to the Olympics,” said Juries.
“It would be very beneficial for the growth of rugby to be part of the biggest and best sporting event in the world.”
Treu said the attractive brand of high-paced action, festival atmospheres and fast growing global appeal is the perfect for the Olympic Games.
“Rugby would reap enormous rewards from being part of the Olympics and it will definite be a deciding factor in attracting big name rugby players to Sevens, because of the prospect of winning an Olympic medal,” explains Treu.