Springbok Women Return Home after Season-Topping Performance in Los Angeles

New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde races away from the Australia defense for a try in the cup final on day three of the HSBC SVNS at Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles, California in the United States of America, on Sunday, 3 March, 2024. Photo: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The Springbok Women’s Sevens will leave Los Angeles with their heads held high after recording their best finish thus far in the 2024 HSBC SVNS season when they placed sixth at the fifth tournament of the year after Finals day at the HSBC SVNS at Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles, California in the United States of America, on Sunday, 3 March, 2024.

The performance also saw the Bok Women jump to their highest position on the standings, as they moved into tenth position.

Despite defeats on the final day of the tournament to the USA in the Cup quarter-finals and France in the fifth-place play-off, Springbok Women’s Sevens head coach Renfred Dazel was full of praise for his squad’s effort over the weekend of rugby, with wins over Fiji and Brazil on day two at Dignity Health Sports Park earning them their best finish of the season.

“We fell away in our last match against France a bit and that was not the way we wanted to finish, but I am very proud of the effort from the squad this weekend,” said Dazel. “Those two wins were real rewards and even in the Cup quarter-finals, we fought well against the USA in front of their home crowd.”

The move upwards on the log was another plus, while Dazel was also pleased that the weekend’s performances came on the second weekend of back-to-back tournaments.

“That was another improvement for us – in the other back-to-back tournament cycle, Dubai and Cape Town, we fell away in the second week,” he said. “This time we improved in the second tournament and showed that we can handle the intensity of two tournaments in as many weeks. That was something we wanted to improve on, so it is very rewarding for all involved.”

South Africa lost 24-7 to the USA in the Cup quarter-finals before France outplayed them 53-0 in the playoff.

“That last performance was another lesson learned,” said Dazel. “We coped well in the USA match, but the performance against France was not how we wanted to finish.

“When you play the top five sides in the tournament, you must upgrade your effort even more. We did not suffer any significant injuries this weekend, so that is another positive as we will be able to start preparing for the Hong Kong event early in April with a full squad.”

The bottom four of 12 HSBC SVNS team will play against the top four sides of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in Madrid at the end of May. The top four in that tournament will form part of the series in 2025. 

The current bottom-placed four are Brazil (28 log points), South Africa (18), Japan (16) and Spain (13).

At the top end of the Los Angeles leg of the HSBC SVNS, Michaela Blyde’s hat-trick powered New Zealand to a 29-14 victory over old rivals Australia to take their second gold medal of HSBC SVNS 2024 in as many weeks.

Both sides went into the final unbeaten in Los Angeles but brilliance from Blyde, plus scores from Risi Pouri-Lane and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, proved the difference as they closed the gap with series leaders Australia in the table to just four points.

In the third-place playoff, the USA secured the bronze medal on home turf with a 21-7 victory against Canada, their best finish of HSBC SVNS 2024.

New Zealand win consecutive golds

Michaela Blyde broke the deadlock for New Zealand on the left edge, but Australia responded when Sharni Smale’s break set up Charlotte Caslick for an almost immediate reply.

Blyde, however, would get New Zealand back in front with a sensational score from 60 metres out, shrugging off three Australian defenders to scorch away and score her 11th try of the weekend.  

Australia’s problems were compounded as Maddison Levi saw yellow for a high tackle, New Zealand taking advantage after the break as Risaleaana Pouri-Lane was found in acres of space on the right wing. Moments later, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe showed her strength and pace to further that lead once more down the right wing to 22-7.

Disciplined New Zealand defence pinned Australia in the own 22, but Levi couldn’t be contained forever as she combined with Caslick and ran 80 metres to cut the deficit.

But with just over a minute to go, Blyde completed her hat-trick down the left wing, securing the victory and backing up New Zealand’s win in Vancouver last weekend.

Route to the final: Australia edge hosts; New Zealand conquer Canada

A late Faith Nathan broke USA hearts as the series leaders held off a late Women’s Sevens Eagles resurgence to win their semi-final clash 26-19.

Australia had eased past Brazil in the quarters and the first half belonged to them, two converted tries from Maddison Levi and Isabella Nasser putting them 14-0 ahead at the break. Sammy Sullivan got the USA, who’d cleared South Africa 24-7 in their quarter-final, on the board early in the second half.

Levi added an Aussie third, but a brace of converted tries from Alev Kelter drew the scores level to give USA some hope. However, thanks to the pace of Nathan, Australia crossed at the last minute to secure their final spot.

After a 36-12 defeat of Ireland, New Zealand strode to a 31-12 semi-final victory over Canada. The Vancouver champions had led 19-0 at the break and despite a brace from Sophie De Goede, there was only ever going to be one winner in this contest as New Zealand crossed for two more.

After beating France 28-19, this loss sent Canada to the bronze final for the second weekend in a row. In Vancouver, they’d beaten Australia 19-14 to take bronze.

USA beat Canada for bronze

The scorching pace of Naya Tapper and Steph Rovetti, helped by a late penalty try, was enough for USA to overcome Krissy Scurfield’s effort and secure victory over Canada.

Tapper scored the only try of the first half after finding space between two defenders on the left wing, while Rovetti showed her pace with a 75-metre effort.

After losing the bronze match in both Cape Town (19-7 v New Zealand) and Perth (24-10 v Great Britain), this is the Women’s Sevens Eagles’ best finish of the season.

Original Copy: SA Rugby Communications and World Rugby, with editing by gsport

Main Photo Caption: New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde races away from the Australia defense for a try in the cup final on day three of the HSBC SVNS at Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles, California in the United States of America, on Sunday, 3 March, 2024. Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Photo 2 Caption: South Africa and the USA enter the quarter-finals of the Los Angeles HSBC SVNS on day 3 of the Californian leg of the tournament. Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Photo 3 Caption: USA’s Ilona Maher steams away from South Africa in their fixture, Nadine Roos on the scorecard for SA but USA going on to win the tie 24-7. Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Photo 4 Caption: New Zealand is the cup winner on day three of the HSBC SVNS at Dignity Health Sports Park on 3 March, 2024 in Los Angeles, United States. Photo: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

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