World Rugby has today unveiled details of the inaugural HSBC Sevens Challenger Series event for women, which will take place at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch, South Africa on 28-29 March, 2020.
The standalone event will see 12 teams who have qualified from all six World Rugby regions competing to win a coveted core place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for the 2021 season.
The nations who will compete in Stellenbosch are Argentina, Belgium, China, Colombia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Scotland and hosts South Africa.
The tournament format will see the 12 teams drawn into three pools of four teams that will compete towards a grand final where the winner gains core team status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021, replacing the bottom placed core team at the end of this season and providing a clear and consistent pathway for teams to progress to play against the world’s best.
The announcement follows the introduction of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series for men which kicks off in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 15-16 February, 2020.
The Sevens Challenger Series is a new competition designed to boost rugby sevens’ development across the globe. Today’s announcement is just the beginning for women’s participation on the Sevens Challenger Series, which will evolve to feature more rounds across the globe as it grows and develops in future years.
With sevens experiencing dynamic growth in terms of both participation and fan engagement, World Rugby is aiming to develop the next generation of players and take rugby sevens to new nations, further growing the popularity and performance of sevens as we approach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and beyond.
Rugby sevens’ hugely impactful debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games attracted an estimated 30 million new fans from around the world to the speed, skill and athleticism of rugby sevens, and with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, the Sevens Challenger Series will help to prepare teams for the possibility of playing on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series participants China and Kenya have already qualified for Tokyo 2020, while Argentina, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Papua New Guinea will all take part in the Olympic repechage in June 2020 to try and secure their place at the 2020 Olympic Games.
In a continuation of their decade long partnership with rugby sevens, HSBC is confirmed as the title partner of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The launch of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series for both women and men is an important milestone moment for the development of rugby sevens around the globe.
“Sevens has seen dynamic growth in interest and fan engagement since making it’s hugely successful Olympic debut at Rio 2016, and it is right to launch the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in a pivotal year for rugby sevens ahead of the spotlight shone by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“The new Sevens Challenger Series will help to develop the next generation of players and bring international sevens events to new nations, further growing its popularity around the world and underscoring our commitment to be a sport for all.
“World Rugby is heavily committed to growing the women’s game – the women’s competition on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has expanded from six to eight rounds this season and teams are more competitive than ever, demonstrating the need and appetite for more women’s teams to be playing sevens at a high level with a clear pathway to progress to the very top of rugby sevens.”
Stellenbosch was selected as host following the ground-breaking women’s World Rugby High Performance Academy which took place at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in May 2019 and the recent success of having the South African women’s sevens team play as the invitational team at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens in December.
South Africa Rugby President Mark Alexander said: “It is apt that we will host this very exciting tournament in Stellenbosch, as that is where South Africa hosted its first World Series tournament way back in 1999.
“We are thrilled to be hosting the inaugural HSBC Sevens Challenger Series event for women in Stellenbosch and grateful to World Rugby for the opportunity.
“This tournament will provide our enthusiastic supporters with yet another opportunity to see top female sevens players in action, something we experienced for the first time last year at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.”
Jonathan Castleman, HSBC Global Head of Brand Partnerships said: “Throughout our 10-year partnership with rugby sevens, we have worked hand-in-hand with our partners to evolve the sport and ensure it maximises its potential.
“With talented teams from Africa, Asia, South America, Central America and Europe all coming together in one stadium, the new Women’s Seven’s Challenger Series is both a wonderful demonstration of the global nature of rugby sevens and a great initiative to support the growth of the sport in new markets.”