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Challenge Series reaches semis with Springboks, Tonga both shining

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by World Rugby)

South Africa are on the cusp of sealing their return to the sevens circuit big-time as a productive moving day Saturday at the 2023 Challenger Series saw them progress to the semi-finals of the second weekend. The first-weekend title winners carried on their recent good form, following up a Nadine Roos-inspired 38-0 pool dismissal of Thailand with a comfortable 31-0 quarter-final success over Colombia.

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Roos was exceptional, scoring six tries in total across the two matches – including five against the Thais – and the Springboks now face Czechia in the semi-finals on Sunday morning at Markotter Stadium.

They go into that fixture knowing that a semi-final win would be enough for them to clinch the all-important promotion to the revamped World Rugby series next season – provided Belgium lose their semi-final to China.

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Black Fern Stacey Fluhler on winning gold at the World Sevens Series in Hong Kong

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Black Fern Stacey Fluhler on winning gold at the World Sevens Series in Hong Kong

South Africa topped the tournament points board with 20 for last weekend’s first-leg title win and they are now guaranteed a minimum of 14 for reaching the second-leg semi-finals.

Runners-up Belgium have 18 from last weekend and third-place China 16 and while those two are guaranteed a minimum of 14 points for reaching this weekend’s last four, a semi-final ambush from Czechia would greatly help their qualification cause.

Roos and co are in action at 10:16am local time, by which stage they will know the outcome of the other semi-final as Belgium versus China has a 9:54am start.

While the aggregate 2023 Sevens Challenger Series women’s champion will gain automatic promotion to the revamped World Rugby Sevens next season, the prize is different in the men’s section in Stellenbosch as the aggregate winner over the two weekends will proceed to a four-team playoff next month in London. That event will have a promotion place to the top tier at stake.

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Tonga are currently favoured to clinch their ticket to contest that playoff as they followed up last weekend’s first-leg title success with progress to the second-leg semi-finals. The Tongans have 20 points to Germany’s 18, Belgium’s 14 and Chile’s eight following the first-leg and they go into this Sunday knowing that a semi-final win over the Germans will book their place in London.

The Pacific Islanders beat Hong Kong China 33-12 in their quarter-final with Germany seeing off Italy 21-12. On the other side of the draw, Belgium were 12-7 winners against Uganda while Chile defeated Papua New Guinea 29-17.

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finn 4 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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S
Simon 6 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

There are a few issues with the article. Despite somehow getting to a RWC semi final, England are nowhere near Probable status and should be swapped with Scotland on current form. France’s failure at RWC 23 has massively hit their mindset. Psychologically, they need a reset of gigantic proportions otherwise they will revert to, Top 14 first, international rugby an afterthought again. Ireland are allowed to play the way they are by less than acceptable officiating. Make no bones about it, with Easterby coaching, Ireland cheat, they break the rules at almost every facet of the game and generally referees, influenced by the media that Ireland are somehow playing the best rugby in the world, allow them. Scrums - Porter never pushes straight and immediately turns in. The flankers lose their binds and almost latch on to the opposition props. Rucks - they always and I mean always clear out from the side and take players out beyond the ball, effectively taking them out of being ready for the next phase. Not once do green shirts enter rucks from the rear foot. Referees should be made to look at the video of the game against Wales and see that Irish backs and forwards happily enter rucks from the side to effect a clearout, thus giving them the sub 3 second ruck speed everybody dreams about. They also stand in offside positions at rucks to ‘block’ opposing players from making clear tackles allowing the ball carrier to break the gainline almost every time. They then turn and are always ahead of play and therefore enter subsequent rucks illegally. Mauls - there is always a blocker between the ball catcher and the opposition. It is subtle but it is there. Gatland still needs to break the shackles and allow his team a bit more freedom to play rugby. He no longer has a team of 16 stone plus players who batter the gainline. He has to adapt and be more thoughtful in attack. Scotland are playing well but they have the creaky defence that leaks tries.

23 Go to comments
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