Johannesburg - South Africa's Springbok Women's Sevens team, Imbokodo, confirmed their status as the best team in Africa when they won the Rugby Africa Women's Sevens in Monastir, Tunisia, last Sunday.
The squad returned home on Tuesday with gold medals around their necks and the knowledge that they are the top team on the continent.
“There is a feeling of joy, of achievement and of content amongst the group. We wanted to go and win this as that would set-up the rest of our season nicely. We can now continue in our quest to try and qualify for the World Rugby Sevens Series,” said team captain, Zintle Mpupha.
Mpupha, who earlier in the year also helped the Springbok Women to qualify for the Rugby World Cup New Zealand in 2021, said the foundation needed to be laid as the team prepares for their next challenge, which will be tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town in November and December.
“We needed to ground ourselves first, almost touch base with our abilities and this was a good exercise for us. We now know where we need to be when we play at that level of competition. This was good for us to continue with our momentum and to see what worked for us. We also came back unbeaten from two tournaments in France earlier in the year, so this all adds to our confidence as a squad. It was not the easiest of trips, but we made the best of it,” she added.
The Imbokodo beat Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia in pool play and edged Kenya 15-14 in the final at Mustapha Ben Jannet Stadium, claiming the continental showpiece with a clean sheet of victories after earlier on Sunday also outplaying Morocco (42-0) in the cup quarter-finals and Madagascar 29-0 in the semi-finals.
“The winning mind-set is a strong one and we enhanced that. It grows confidence and belief in each other and the squad as a whole. It has been a good year so far,” said Mpupha.
The win also secured the Imbokodo a ticket to the official qualifiers of the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series next year and will provide a confidence boost for their participation at the Dubai Sevens International Invitational and the Cape Town Sevens in December.
Springbok Women’s Sevens coach, Paul Delport, only had praises for the team.
“I am very happy and excited for this group, especially the way we played in that final. A year ago, we would have lost that game. Credit to the group for the character shown and the way they close out the game against Kenya,” said Delport.
"Generally, we found our rhythm early and we did well in all areas. The squad have a lot of freedom to express themselves on attack and that is maybe one area where I would like them to show a bit more decision-making. But I am a proud and happy coach.
“The general feeling in the camp is good. We have an opportunity to qualify for the World Series and that is something to work towards. We will have to work hard to get to that level, but this group will not be shy to put in the yards. We need to make a big push, it is not only about qualifying, but staying in the World Series.”
Delport named two debutants in Liske Lategan and Megan Phillips and they did not disappoint.
“The new players showed a good appetite and I am very proud of the contracted group as well. All but one started in the final and they came through. How special was Rights Mkhari, getting a hat-trick in the final? That is the quality of players we have, and they can take us forward,” Delport said.