Gripping late drama sees Springboks, Belgium win Challenger titles
The second leg of the Sevens Challenger Series in Stellenbosch provided a dramatic denouement on Sunday, South Africa producing a buzzer-beating try to defeat Belgium in the women’s final and clinch qualification for next season’s revamped World Rugby Series while the Belgian men clung on to pip Tonga in their final.
The buzzer had already sounded when the Springboks – trailing 14-12 at the time – were awarded a penalty just metres from the Belgian line. They opted for the scrum and going the set-piece route proved to be the correct decision as the ball was worked wide to enable Libby Janse van Rensburg to dive over for the decisive score.
South Africa would still have qualified for the World Series if the Belgians had hung on in the dying seconds to be crowned second-leg champions. Both teams would have finished with 38 aggregate tournament points each and the tiebreaker would have been points difference across the two weekends, a category that favoured the host nation.
However, by scoring the winning try with the final play of the tournament, South Africa now go forward into the World Rugby Series as Challenger Series champions in both the first and second legs.
They led 12-0 at the break in the second leg final courtesy of tries from Sizophila Solontsi and Ayanda Malinga, only to fall two points behind after Belgium’s Cecile Blondiau scored two converted tries.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2023
South Africa struck back decisively, however, to take the second-leg title, something that first-leg men’s champions Tonga were unable to achieve in their section. In beating Germany 33-26 in the semi-final, the Tongans were crowned aggregate Challenger Series champions, an honour that secured them a playoff play at the London 7s next month where they will compete to get on next season’s elite World Rugby circuit.
However, they exited Stellenbosch without winning the second leg tournament as an unfancied Belgium came out of the blocks quickly and a late try-scoring Tongan surge wasn’t enough to deny the Europeans their 28-26 title-sealing win.
Join free and tell us what you really think!Sign up for free