South Africa secured the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup Division 1 2023 title, and their place in WXV 2, with a 79-8 victory against hosts Madagascar on Sunday.
Heading into their meeting in Antananarivo, the Springbok Women needed only a point to successfully defend the crown they won in 2019 and confirm qualification for WXV 2.
In front of another passionate crowd at Stade Makis, South Africa wrapped that up, through a try-scoring bonus point, within 25 minutes. Despite conceding points for the first time in this year’s tournament, they went on to cross the whitewash 13 times in total to ease to victory.
Kenya will join the Springbok Women in the inaugural edition of WXV this October, albeit in the third level, after their 52-3 defeat of Cameroon proved enough to secure second place in the Division 1 standings.
Grace Okulu scored 18 points to help the Lionesses to a commanding second victory of the tournament.
Springbok Women secure title in style
South Africa’s superior physicality told early in Antananarivo, as hooker Lindelwa Gwala took advantage of an impressive lineout drive to score her second try of the tournament.
Soon afterwards, her front-row colleague, loose-head prop Sanelisiwe Charlie burrowed over from close range following a fine team move. Libbie Janse van Rensburg, who started at full-back, added the extras to give South Africa a 12-0 lead.
The sizeable crowd at Stade Makis was given something to cheer in the 14th minute as Zaya Fanantenana slotted a penalty through the posts, becoming the first player to score against South Africa during the 2023 Division 1 campaign.
Her intervention did little to swing the momentum of the match, however, and after South Africa captain Chumisa Qawe had supplied a fine finish from close range, number eight Sizophila Solontsi powered over from the base of a five-metre scrum.
Solontsi’s second try in as many matches confirmed the Springbok Women as champions, although their afternoon’s work was not yet done.
The prolific Nomawethu Mabenge added a fifth South African try but the biggest roar of the half was reserved for Fanantenana as she cut through the Springbok Women defence on her way to scoring a brilliant individual effort.
If Fanantenana’s moment of magic gave the home crowd hope, it was extinguished in the opening 14 minutes of the second half, in which South Africa crossed the whitewash four times.
Mabenge started that run with her sixth try of the tournament, while there was a first in tests for second-row Danelle Lochnar, before Simamkele Namba and Janse van Rensburg also crossed the whitewash.
There was little let up from the Springbok Women in the closing 20 minutes and they scored four more times, through replacements Sinazo Mcatshulwa and Asiphe Mayaba, Lusanda Dumke, who had had an earlier score disallowed for obstruction, and Solontsi.
Defending the title they won four years ago means South Africa will compete in WXV 2 this October, joining Scotland and Japan in the second level. They will be joined by either Spain or Italy as well as the team that finishes fourth in the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2023 and the winner of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2023.
Kenya secure WXV 3 qualification
Thanks to their victory against the hosts last Saturday, Kenya knew a bonus-point win would likely be enough to book their place in WXV 3, whatever happened in Sunday’s second match, and they started quickly at Stade Makis.
Less than four minutes were on the clock when Nelly Chikombe touched down to give the Lionesses their opening try of the match.
Grace Okulu added the extras and then converted her own score two minutes later to help Kenya build a 14-0 lead within the blink of an eye.
The Lionesses found it more difficult to break down the Cameroon defence as the half wore on but with Gladys Magala in the sin bin, Judith Okumu supplied the third Kenyan try of the match to give her side a 19-0 half-time lead.
Cameroon’s task was made infinitely harder in the 47th minute as Danielle Moudangwedi was shown a red card, but it was the west Africans who struck next as Assouga Rosine Ntsa landed a penalty.
Any hopes of an unlikely comeback were quashed soon afterwards, though, as Phoebe Otieno notched the try that confirmed a bonus point for Kenya.
Stella Wafula and Okulu breached the Cameroon try-line twice more in the next 10 minutes, and the Lionesses would run in another two tries in the final quarter to make the score 52-3 at full-time.
Kenya join Ireland and Kazakhstan in confirming their place in WXV 3. Those three teams will be joined by either Italy or Spain and one each from Oceania and South America.