The road to San Francisco beings in Tunisia for the African regional sides this weekend from September 16-17. The African 7’s Women’s tournament winner will take the one spot reserved for the African Region, at the June Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. Eight teams will battle it out in the RWC Sevens 2018 Qualifier.
Lady Blitzbokke Favorites in African Qualifier
The Kenyan Lioness and the South African Lady Bltizbokke are the favorites for the two-day tourney. Both have the experience, playing in the World Rugby Sevens Series, but the South Africans have the edge.
The non-appearance of any African team in the recent Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland has boosted the morale of all the ladies from Africa, to represent their country. And also, not to make up the numbers in San Francisco.
South Africa Women’s Boks coach Renfred Dazel has named two new debutantes to feature for the Lady Blitzbokke in Tunisia. Rights Mikhari and Zinhle Ndawonde will come in for Marithy Pienarr, Nomsa Mokwai and Phumeza Gadu.
The two are replacing a trio who are synonymous with the rise of Women’s Boks lately. But look out for new women to make strides toward representing the ‘Rainbow Nation’.
Veroeshka Grain will lead the side which also have the services of seasoned campaigners, Zenay Jordaan and Mathrin Simmers. South Africa are the defending champions and they face hosts Tunisia, Morocco and Uganda in Pool stages.
“This is an important tournament for us, so there will naturally be nerves, but we are also very excited about the challenge,” Boks captain Veroeshka Grain told worldrugby.org.
Lady Blitzbokke squad: Megan Comely, Veroeshka Grain, Zenay Jordaan, Jacqueline Kriel, Nadine Roos, Mathrin Simmers, Chane Stadler, Christelene Steinhobel, Rights Mikhari, Zintle Mphupha, Zinhle Ndawonde, Eloise Webb.
The Lioness is unpredictable, and they can spring surprises when they put their act together. They were fortunate to represent the region at the Rio Olympics last year, when the South African Olympic Committee would not allow their Women’s side to compete at the games.
However, this is that one opportunity to legitimately tell the world that ‘they can win that right’ to represent their region.
Kenya heads Pool B which includes Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Senegal.
“Our focus is to top our pool first. We can’t talk about South Africa if we don’t win our pool.”
“That said, scores against Kenya and South Africa have been pretty close of late, especially the 2016 Africa Cup–where we lost by five points” Kenya coach Kevin Mwema said on worldrugby.org.
Who Will Be Crowned Queens of African Sevens?
On paper, it will be the South Africans who should breeze through to qualify. However, the Lioness’s and Tunisia can pose a major threat.
It will be interesting how the two-day tourney will unfold. The game is growing, with nations putting more resources into the Olympic sport. And with just one spot up for grabs, and a chance to visit the United States of America on the cards, who wouldn’t give it their all for one chance at Gold.
Ladyblitzbokke team captain Veroeshka Grain summed it up well to worldrugby.org;
“That said, we know we have to be at our best to achieve this, as Kenya have been tough opponents in the last few years.”
“Tunisia will want to make the most of their home ground advantage, while a number of other sides have shown a steady improvement in the quality of their rugby in the last few seasons as well.”
RWC Sevens Regional Qualifiers
More International qualifiers will follow in the upcoming weeks, as teams fight for spots to appear at San Francisco.
The second round of Asian Qualifiers will be in South Korea from September 22-24, with the Oceania Qualifiers hosted by Fiji, to be held in November.
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