South Africa star Ayanda Malinga has warned the team’s World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series rivals that there is more to come from the Springbok Women’s Sevens in Stellenbosch this weekend.
Malinga crossed the whitewash five times to help South Africa win the opening women’s Challenger Series 2023 tournament at Markötter Stadium, including a pivotal score in the final defeat of Belgium.
Victory ensured the Springbok Women’s Sevens will kick-off the second tournament on Friday at the top of the standings and with qualification for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2024 in their own hands.
However, despite going unbeaten in Stellenbosch last weekend there were aspects of their play that Malinga and her team-mates were not happy with.
“It has given us a lot of confidence, but we want to touch up the things that we couldn’t execute last week,” Malinga told World Rugby.
“We didn’t attack the way we planned to attack last week, so we want to fix our attack basically. Because we just played on what they gave us on the field.”
Malinga’s fifth try of the opening tournament came at just the right time for her side, who conceded twice in the opening four minutes of the final to trail Belgium 10-0.
It was crucial for the hosts’ hopes therefore, that Malinga was able to touch down in the final minute of the first half.
That try preceded a second-half comeback in which South Africa held out while down to six players before tries from Nadine Roos and Marlize de Bruin, the first converted by Libbie Janse van Rensburg, confirmed a 17-10 win and the title.
“We really had to score because they were leading us 10-0 at that moment. So, we really had to put numbers on the board,” Malinga said.
“We really wanted to win the [opening] tournament, so we just had to remind ourselves how hard we have worked to get to that position so that we can execute whatever we had to do at that moment.”
Scoring such an important try in the final capped an impressive tournament for Malinga, who also crossed the whitewash in a 36-0 win against Mexico last Thursday and claimed her first international hat-trick as Thailand were beaten 29-12 on day two.
For Malinga, her performance was made all the sweeter as it came on her return to international action, seven months after suffering an ankle injury at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022.
“It was amazing,” Malinga explained. “The fact to be back after an injury and to play, it’s just something else.”
The injury she sustained at Cape Town Stadium last September ended the winger’s hopes of playing at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, something she had been working towards for much of her career.
“It wasn’t a good feeling,” she added. “Since I started playing rugby, I was really looking forward to the 15s World Cup so missing it, it wasn't a good feeling. But I kept on doing my rehab and focusing on being well.
“I feel like it also gave me a lot of motivation to just work on myself because with this sport, you cannot predict anything because anything can happen any day.
“So, you cannot say, 'Yeah, I want to be in this squad that is going to the World Cup' [because] then the next thing you get an injury and then you are no longer there.
“So, I feel like it gave me strength to just go back and work hard and just do my rehab because look at me now. I'm back and I'm fit, I'm fine.”
Malinga believes she is better than fine, in fact, stating that she is “back in my best shape”. If that doesn’t worry South Africa’s rivals this weekend, then maybe the fact that the whole squad is as hungry as her to finish the job will.
Every player selected by Renfred Dazel for this weekend is motivated to get South Africa over the line and back on the Series as a core team for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“We’ve been working hard for three months, so I feel like that is the thing that is always in our minds,” she said.
“I feel like we want it so badly and all of us, we are on the same page. We want this. So, we are just taking that to this upcoming weekend.”