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South Africa upset SVNS heavyweights USA with final play heroics

By Finn Morton
South Africa players celebrate a try by Simamkele Namba #14 (2L) in the women's pool B match against the United States during day one of the HSBC SVNS Singapore at the National Stadium on May 03, 2024 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

There are some interesting parallels between South Africa’s first match of the 2023/24 SVNS Series season and their opening game in Singapore. While they are destined to compete for survival in the play-off later this month, the Springbok Women’s Sevens have come a long way.


Six months ago, the newly-promoted South African side were on track for an almighty upset against reigning Series winners New Zealand. Nadine Roos and Maria Tshiremba scored as the underdogs took a lead into the half-time huddle.

But the Black Ferns Sevens, as they often do, rallied. Jazmin Felix-Hotham kicked off the comeback before captain Sarah Hirini ran away for the match-winner with time practically up on the clock. It went down as a loss but South Africa showed how capable they are.

In the six events that followed, the Springbok Women’s Sevens have pulled off similar performances against heavyweight opposition but fallen short. But with one more tournament to go in the regular season, South Africa shocked the rugby sevens world.

Just like that season opener in Dubai, Roos scored the opener for South Africa against a red-hot USA outfit before Simamkele Namba levelled the scores in the 15th minute with a try after the siren. Roos stepped up and nailed the conversion to win it 14-12.

On a humid Friday morning, Roos admitted she was “quite nervous” as the star playmaker lined up that shot at goal. It was an important moment for a team who are chasing what would be only their second quarter-finals appearance of the season.

“After Hong Kong we’ve gone back to the drawing board. We saw the opportunities that were missed and we’ve worked really hard, set goals specifically on that tournament. We’ve looked at some stats and set out specific goals on specific numbers.” Roos told RugbyPass.


“Still with this game, got a win but there’s still a lot of work out there.

“Just again, the growth that this team shows – that’s the reward that we get when we work hard for each other. I think that’s just a massive effort out there from the ladies.

“Definitely for us, it’s been an up-down season. We were good in one tournament and then it was bad the next one. We’ve really seen that,” she added.

“We’re just trying to find our consistency and keep that standard up because at the end of the day, if we keep that standard high the results will follow.


“The New Zealand game in Dubai was the best performance that we’ve set out this season and that’s the standard that we’re striving towards for the rest of the season.”

The USA women’s side are one of the teams to beat on the SVNS Series. Zack Test’s team were a bit slow out of the blocks in the first four events but have since rallied to claim a bronze medal in Los Angeles and a runners-up finish in Hong Kong China.

As for the South Africans, they will go to Madrid at the end of the month to compete for a core status place. They will come up against another three teams from the SVNS Series and the top-four sides from the division two Challenger Series.

While the Americans have been tracking well, it’s largely been a frustrating campaign for South Africa. So, that’s what makes this result one of the upsets of the season.

“It’s definitely a bit of a frustration because we know we can keep compete against these top teams, it’s just pitching up for every single game and not get bigger than the game,” Roos explained.

“I don’t think it’s getting bigger to the game, it’s just going back to the drawing board and getting back to zero that at the end of the day will give you these results.

“Now we need to just build on this day one and go upwards.”

Catch up on all the latest SVNS Series action from the 2023/24 season on RugbyPass TV. SVNS Singapore is live and free to watch, all you need to do is sign up HERE.


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William 4 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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