Springbok Women’s Sevens qualify for World Series after Challenger victory in Stellenbosch

Springbok Women’s Sevens qualify for World Series after Challenger victory in Stellenbosch
South Africa celebrate with coach Renfred Dazel after qualifying as a core team for the World Sevens Series next year. SA beat Belgium in the final of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023, leg two, at Markotter Stadium. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

South Africa beat Belgium 17-14 to win their second Challenger Series in as many weeks, which comes with huge benefits.

The Springbok Women’s Sevens claimed a hard-fought 17-14 victory over Belgium in the final of the second weekend of the Challenger Series in Stellenbosch to qualify for the Sevens World Series next season.

In a replay of last weekend’s Sevens action at the Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch, the two leading women’s teams in the tournament – South Africa and Belgium – faced off in the final again.

South Africa had a small but vocal home crowd cheering them on as they took a 12-0 half-time lead, thanks to early tries by Ayanda Malinga and Sizophila Solontsi. 

But Belgium hit back quickly after the restart with two snappy converted tries of their own, against South Africa’s weary legs, to take a 14-12 lead. 

Belgium’s two tries were only the second and third conceded by South Africa all weekend. 

With time running out on the clock, South Africa had scrum 5 metres from the Belgium tryline, Nadine Roos picked up from the base and passed to flyhalf Libbie Janse van Rensburg, who darted to the short side and dotted down in the corner to take the score to 17-14, as the Bok bench ran on to the field to celebrate their second consecutive Challenger Series victory. 

The win meant South Africa finished on 40 points, four points ahead of Belgium, after winning last weekend’s Challenger Series as well. South Africa will now become the 12th core team in the World Rugby Sevens Series next season. 

“It’s special to go on to the World Circuit,” said head coach Renfred Dazel after the encounter. 

“For us to play there, you have to fight hard and we’ve fought hard the last three months — two and a half months of training and two weeks of playing. 

“This week was more mental than anything. You can’t get players fit [in the short time span], but you can get them in the right mindset. 

“They really showed character at the end by leading in the final 12-0. Finals pressure is something different that you don’t get in other games. 

“The crowd was amazing. You can play anywhere in the world, but if your family and the crowd is behind you, it gives you the extra edge. That helped us in the end.” 

South Africa’s Ayanda Malinga on attack against Belgium in the final of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023, leg two, at Markotter Stadium. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

World Series qualification 

The Springbok Women’s Sevens team is now guaranteed a place on the World Series circuit next season where they will compete alongside World Cup champions Australia and dominant force New Zealand. 

“All of the 12 core teams will receive a £300,000 (just under R7-million) participation fee,” Douglas Langley, head of Sevens Competitions at World Rugby, told Daily Maverick. 

“That money will be agreed and signed off with South African rugby … Then, we’ll work with South African rugby in terms of how that investment will work within their Sevens programme. 

“It’s not giving them a cheque and saying ‘off you go’; it has to be seen to be investing into the Sevens programme for the women. 

“That’s the same for the men’s teams. South Africa [men’s team] should be a core team next year, so they will also receive £300,000 as a participation fee. 

“So, if both men and women are in the Sevens Series next year, South Africa will get £600,000 in participation fees. 

“World Rugby covers the flight cost for a certain number of players and staff. Then they cover the ground costs [hotels and accommodation] for a certain number of days. 

“Most of the competition costs [fall on] World Rugby, so the participation fee can be used to invest in preparation and other tournaments where there is a need for costs.” 

Road to the final 

Earlier in the day, the Springbok Women’s Sevens team thumped Czechia 24-0 in the semifinal to secure their spot in the Challenger Series final. 

Roos was the standout player in the semifinal, scoring two tries and setting up another. The starlet – playing in the unfamiliar position of centre – scored 78 points across the weekend, more than any other player (10 tries and 14 conversions). 

“Scoring the tries isn’t the hardest work. The people on the inside, the forwards, did the work and laid the foundation. For us in the backline, we need to execute and finish it off,” Roos told Daily Maverick after her exceptional weekend performance. 

“When you pull this jersey over your head, a lot of pride and passion goes into it.” 

On Saturday afternoon, South Africa breezed into the semifinal after a more than comfortable 31-0 win over Colombia in the quarterfinal. 

It was a comprehensive team performance from the Springbok Women, with five different try scorers crossing the whitewash. 

On cold and chilly Friday and Saturday mornings, South Africa brushed past their opposition in Pool D with convincing victories over Paraguay (29-0), Madagascar (19-5) and Thailand (38-0). 

Roos was again the star against the south Asian side on Saturday morning, scoring five tries – four of which came in the first half – in a rampant display. 

The diminutive strike runner’s outstanding display came from the centre position this week – she normally plays as a sweeper – after Marlize de Bruin fractured her ankle last weekend. DM


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