A Key weekend for Nigeria Rugby
24 April 2013
Posted by on
The Africa Cup Sevens being held in Mombasa this weekend may prove to be a watershed for Nigerian Rugby. A good performance from the Black Stallions could see them compete in next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow which will be their first opportunity to play on a global stage.
Nigeria came agonisingly close to qualifying for the IRB Sevens World Cup finals in Moscow in June (see Letter from Morocco: Small Margins) but this time they will not want to experience the same disappointment.
The top three African Commonwealth Nations will travel to Glasgow with South Africa and Kenya clearly occupying the top two spots in the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) rankings. Unfortunately, the absence of an formal ranking system by CAR means that the question of which country holds the third place is up for debate.
At last year’s Sevens World Cup African qualifiers in Morocco, Nigeria finished in third place behind Zimbabwe and Tunisia, neither of which are in the Commonwealth, so logic would dictate that Nigeria should receive that third Commonwealth Games spot. However, there is every chance that CAR will use the tournament in Kenya to establish which country will be given that privilege.
There are twelve teams taking part including the second and third string Kenya squads, but the key countries as far as the Commonwealth games is concerned are Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. In Morocco, Nigeria beat Zambia and after losing to Madagascar in the pool stage, they beat them in the third place play-off. Namibia didn’t make it past the pool stage and Uganda didn’t take part.
However, Uganda are ambitious and could prove to be the key country to beat and Nigeria have them in their first match of the tournament kicking off at 11am (9am UK time) on Saturday. Nigeria have not started well in recent tournaments but this is such an important game that they cannot afford not to hit the ground running. A victory followed by pool stage wins against Senegal and Madagascar could see Nigeria with one foot on the pitch in Glasgow.
I can’t be in Mombasa to watch so I will be relying on friends and Twitter to follow Nigeria’s progress. The competition a web siite http://africacupsevens.com/, a Twitter feed @AfricaCupSevens and it is also on FaceBook. Nigeria’s Twitter account is @NigeriaRugby – give them your support.