Johannesburg - Three years ago, South Africa had a men’s four boat but hardly any rowers to occupy the seats. Yet, somehow, the national squad managed to qualify a spot for the Rio Olympic Games on Monday in that class.

The men’s four crew of David Hunt, Jonty Smith, Vince Breet and Jake Green became the fifth South African boat – a men's and women's pairs and a men's and women's lightweight sculls, respectively, have already qualified for the Games – to book a spot for the global showpiece at the Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The team qualified in style as they led their final race from start to finish.National rowing coach, Roger Barrow, was delighted with the crew’s achievement in qualifying a record amount of boats for the Games.

”It is a new record now and I think the best we had in the past was three ... So, I think it is a great, new standard for us. It just builds confidence in the team,” Barrow said.

”Everyone is chuffed, and we are also kind of shocked about how well they did.”They haven’t put a good row on the table this season, so we’ve been hard on them in training and talking to the guys about executing the race strategy compared to what happened in Varese.

”It would have been a particularly good day for Hunt, who first qualified the men’s pair at last year’s world championships in France with Shaun Keeling before losing his seat. The same could be said about Breet after he won the world bronze medal with Keeling in 2014.While the squad had a boat for the men’s four class, Barrow had to go at lengths to fill the vacant spots.

”I think we only got that boat at the end of 2013 and we didn’t row it for a year because we didn’t have enough athletes, we only had three,” Barrow said.

”Lawrence Brittain had cancer, Jonty Smith was still down in Cape Town doing his studies and at the time he had not taken up rowing full-time yet, Vince was still down in Harvard. We only and Shaun Keeling and David Hunt, so there was a lot of work from the guys over the last year.

”Barrow was impressed by the way his young crew turned in a performance that belied their years.The men’s four missed out on qualification at last year’s World Rowing Championships in France, before a reshuffled crew finished in sixth place at the first World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy, last month.

”The big concern going into this regatta was maturity and would they be able to pull off the speed we’ve seen in training and I give them 10-out-of-10 for that,” Barrow said.

“It was a really mature race, they got a good lead and held on to it... they didn’t have to take it home too hard.”Rowing at stroke, the 22-year-old Green is the youngest member of the crew, while the 25-year-old Hunt, at bow, is the oldest.

”They’ve really become a good boat and we believe there is a lot of work we can do, we needed some confidence for the guys and they got that, so we need to find more speed as we go forward to Rio,” Barrow said.

”(Green) in the stroke is the youngest and is also leading the boat, and he really stroked a great race, very composed, good steering, so we are very chuffed with him.”

The Star