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Introspection after SA women gets relegated

REACTION: South African women’s Sevens coach Renfred Dazel said they will have to take their HSBC SVNS relegation on the chin, regroup and give their season a fitting finish at their first appearance at the Olympic Games later this year.

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The South Africans lost their status as a core team after Spain beat them in Madrid on Sunday, and the SA women’s team will now have to qualify for the World Rugby Challenger Series again via the continental route.

“We will take a week or so off to clear our heads and then start our Olympic preparations in all earnest,” said Dazel.

“As bad it is for us to lose our core status, as exciting it is to go and compete as part of Team South Africa at the Paris Olympics and we need to make the most of that special moment.”

With regards to the 2024 season, Dazel feels that the inconsistency during the series came back to haunt them on Sunday, when they had to beat Spain to retain their status as a core team.

“Look, we can try and find excuses like the lack of a pre-season for the squad going into the series or the availability of some players, but that is not going to solve our problem of having to qualify again,” said Dazel.

“This is not the first time we lost our status and I know how despondent everyone is feeling.

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“Thanks to the South African Rugby Union for their support of the Sevens programme.

“We can remain competitive and qualify to play in the Challenger Series by winning the Africa Cup Sevens in September.

“So, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”

SVNS 2024-25 qualified

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Dazel said the next cycle will involve finding new players to join the fray as well as creating opportunities to play Sevens.

“We need to find the next group of young players who can take the system forward and that is an exciting prospect.

“We will also need to sit down and look at our personnel for the Africa Cup and start preparing for that with enough time in hand.

“It was disappointing to lose like this today, especially as we lost our way in the second half again.

“That dogged us all season and cost us dearly.”

Against Spain, the South Africans clearly felt the pressure of the knock-out phase of the final tournament of the season and conceded four tries without firing any real shots.

Spain, spurred on by a lively home crowd, scored two tries on each side of the half-time break, a clear indication of their dominance in this game.

They were on the attack from the outset and although the SA women defended well, the host team hit gaps and after four minutes, Juana Stella scored their first try.

South Africa got their hands on the ball, but more mistakes followed and a try by Paula Requena after the hooter saw Spain finish the first half with a 10-0 lead.

Requena’s second try, 90 seconds into the second half, all but sealed the deal for the Spanish, and although South Africa had a few more opportunities, they were let down by their handling, with too many knock-ons costing them dearly.

Beatriz Dominguez then put the final nail in the South African coffin with a break-out try from their own 22, to ensure Spain play on the world series again next season, even though they finished one spot lower than the Bok Women in 2024.

South Africa won three out of five times against Spain during the 2024 season, but looked nothing like the team that started the tournament with two dominant performances on Friday, and failed to gain ascendency in any area of play.

Their defence was frantic, they conceded numerous penalties at the breakdown and hardly worked themselves into attacking positions, and when they did, handling errors came at a huge cost.

Spain played with much more composure, passion, and direction in the most important match of the season for both teams.

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