South Africa’s women have made it through to their third Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament as African champions, becoming the 16th team to confirm their place at next year’s event in San Francisco, on 20-21 July 2018.
Coach Renfred Dalzel’s side were unbeaten at the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens Championship, which doubled as the regional RWC Sevens qualification tournament, overcoming main rivals Kenya 17-12 in a top-turvy final in the town of Jemmal, near Monastir in eastern Tunisia.
Both finalists topped their respective pools with three wins apiece, Kenya qualifying for the knockout stages as number one seeds thanks to their superior points tally, but the defending champions prevailed when it mattered most to take the regional crown for the fifth year in a row.
On day one, South Africa cruised past Morocco (43-0) and Uganda (23-0) either side of a tough encounter against hosts Tunisia (17-7) to enter the knockout stages high on confidence.
Meanwhile, Kenya began their campaign with a 27-5 victory over Madagascar before a Janet Okello’s hat-trick saw them down Senegal 38-0 in their second match. An equally emphatic 47-0 victory over Zimbabwe in their final pool fixture booked them a date with eighth seeds Morocco in the quarters.
South Africa’s fine form continued into day two as they brushed aside Senegal 43-0 to earn themselves a semi-final berth against Uganda while Sinaida Aura scored four times in a 47-0 win for Kenya over Morocco.
Once again South Africa made short work of their opponents as they powered their way to a 27-0 semi-final victory over Uganda and a place in the final against arch-rivals Kenya who made it through to Sunday’s showpiece match thanks to a 26-7 victory against Tunisia.
By reaching the final Kenya booked their place at the rugby sevens tournament at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, on the Gold Coast of Australia in April next year, as one of the top-two ranked African Commonwealth nations.
However, to land the big prize of a place at the RWC Sevens 2018 the Lionesses needed to beat South Africa for the first time in four attempts in the final of the Rugby Africa Sevens Championship.
The omens did not look good when South Africa took an early lead but the Lionesses responded with two tries own to go 12-5 up at the break. South Africa took advantage when Kenya lost a player to the sin-bin to level the scores in the second half before Zenay Jordan grabbed the matchwinner.
They can now look forward to competing against the world’s best sevens teams at the iconic AT&T Park in San Francisco Bay. Bronze medallists at the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009, South Africa finished a disappointing 13th at the last tournament in Moscow in 2013.