Australia and Argentina crowned Cape Town champs

Australia and Argentina crowned Cape Town champs

Australia claimed a first-ever Cape Town title, and their second HSBC SVNS 2024 victory in a row, with a gutsy 29-26 win over France in an epic women’s final to cue ecstatic celebrations. The men’s final was a more one-sided affair as Argentina produced a dominant display to overcome Australia by a 45-12 scoreline to secure their first title in Cape Town.

Double Olympic champions Fiji secured the men’s bronze medal with a hard fought 14-7 win over Ireland while reigning HSBC SVNS title holders New Zealand had to settle for bronze with a 19-7 defeat of USA.

The results in Cape Town see Argentina lead the men’s HSBC SVNS standings on 38 points, followed by South Africa and Fiji on 30 points. Australia lead the women’s standings with a perfect 40 points, ahead of France and New Zealand on 34 points each.

South African supporters were also pleasantly surprised when three members of the Springboks' Rugby World Cup-winning squad, Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie and Manie Libbok, appeared on the field with the Webb Ellis Cup.

“It’s an awesome vibe out there and it’s awesome sharing the trophy with the people once again and seeing all the joy on people’s faces,” said Libbok.

“You never get tired of it and if I can bring a smile to a young child’s face, and give them hope and inspire them – and adults as well, that’s everything for me. That’s why we do it – to bring joy to the people and to our country.”

Speaking about the incredible entertainment on offer at the HSBC SVNS Cape Town over the weekend, the Springbok flyhalf added: “It’s nice to be here – with the DJing and the music, the rugby and entertainment on the field as well, and the skills on show. It’s such an awesome vibe. Sevens always produces an awesome experience, awesome tournament. It’s definitely something that I like to watch because of all the entertainment and all the things going on around the field.”

On the pitch, Dubai champions Australia added the Cape Town crown to their sevens collection on Sunday – but they did it the hard way, after Maddison Levi was sent off for a high tackle at the end of the first-half.

They had raced into a 22-0 lead in the first six minutes, before Les Bleues’ got on the scoreboard. But a double for Anne-Cecile Ciofani in the extended first half, and a third for Carla Neisen pulled France back to within three. Kaitlin Shave then put Australia out of sight, just as Levi had in Dubai the previous Sunday, despite Joanna Grisez’s late, late score.

The victory means Australia head to the next round on home turf in Perth on 26-28 January looking for a hat-trick of titles.

Winning captain Charlotte Caslick said: “It was a really gutsy effort, finishing the game with only six players. We played France last week and also had a red card. To do that two weeks in a row it was just so brave from the girls. We love coming to Cape Town, so to win here and go back to back – we haven’t done that for a really long time – it’s set our season up really well.”

Caslick and Isabelle Nasser had earlier both scored twice in the semi-final, as Australia eased into the final with a 33-7 win over USA; after making it 15 quarter-final wins in the last 16 appearances with their 29th victory in a row over Ireland, a 24-14 result.

On an action-packed finals day in Cape Town, New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde became the second woman in sevens history to reach the 200 try mark, but a week after their 41-match winning streak was ended by Australia in Dubai, the Black Ferns were outperformed by France in the semi-finals at Cape Town Stadium.

France held off a ferocious New Zealand fightback, even scoring a desperately needed try when reduced to six players, to win just a third sevens series semi-final in their history, as they beat the Black Ferns’ 24-12.

Tries from Anne-Cecile Ciofani, Chloe Jacquet and Lili Dezou were enough to get them to the final four, despite a late try from Fiji’s Reapi Ulunisau, which dragged the scores back to 19-17.

Argentina claimed the HSBC SVNS 2024 series crown in Cape Town with a clinical win over Australia, a week after losing to South Africa in the final in Dubai.

It was a fitting end to a weekend in which Los Pumas Sevens veteran Gastón Revol played his 100th tournament, and German Schulz scored his 100th international sevens try as the South American squad laid down a marker with a first-ever win in South Africa.

Argentina were just too good for Australia as they added Cape Town gold to the silver they won in Dubai a week previously.

German Schulz opened the scoring with a long run-in, with Santiago Mare, Marcos Moneta and Matías Osadczuk also touching down in the first seven minutes as Australia struggled to keep pace with Los Pumas in the first period.

Australia finally got on the scoreboard in the second half, as Nathan Lawson and Dietrich Roache cut the deficit. But player of the final Osadczuk’s second, his fourth in Cape Town, settled matters.

Tomas Elizalde and captain Santiago Alvarez’s late scores were the icing on the cake, as they rounded off the tournament with a 45-12 win.

“I love, too, the way they play,” Los Pumas Sevens coach and former player Santiago Gomez Cora said. “We said they’re crazy because you put all the passion – they know how to play, obviously – they are a team that feel the way that they play. They’re a little crazy to play in that way.

“We’re very happy because we feel at home here at Cape Town. They support us, so thank you very much, everyone – hope to see you next time.”

Los Pumas Sevens had reached the final for the ninth time since Seville 2022, with an organised win over 26-19 win over Ireland. The scoreline would have been more convincing had the Irish not run in two scores in the final minute, when the match was already lost.

James Turner described Australia’s 24-7 semi-final win over Fiji to reach their first-ever sevens final in South Africa as “pretty special”.

“We definitely had a slower start last week, and this week we really wanted to aim up,” he said.

Earlier, Argentina’s Schulz had dived spectacularly under the posts to score his 100th sevens try as Los Pumas eased past day one’s surprise package Canada 33-0 in their last-eight match.

Sevens' all-action offering key to sustainable growth

Weekends of all-action entertainment both on and off the pitch like the HSBC SVNS Cape Town are what will grow the game of rugby according to Alan Gilpin, the CEO of World Rugby.

Gilpin was speaking on the second day of the revamped tournament, where thousands of fans have flocked to what has this year been hailed as a next-level entertainment experience.

Over 40 artists have performed across three stages throughout the weekend with music, food and drink, fitness challenges, DJs and dancing central to the action.

“We’re thrilled to have welcomed more than 80,000 people across the two days here in the magnificent Cape Town stadium, it’s great to be back here,” Gilpin said.

“Really what you’re seeing is sevens being slightly reborn, absolutely with the sport at the heart of what we’re doing, but attracting fans in a different way, a slightly younger demographic by providing a lot more entertainment and a lot more fun around what we’re doing with rugby sevens.”

Gilpin said the target market for the rebranded HSBC SVNS, which started in Dubai last weekend, is 18 to 34-year-olds who are more likely to attend an event that has more on offer.

“I think what we’ve seen is that’s a demographic that is hard to reach with any traditional sport, with the pure sports product. They’re an audience that you can reach for a longer period of time if you’re bombarding their senses across a wider range of entertainment – health and wellbeing, food and drink and travel being a big part of the SVNS series as well.

“So that demographic – if we’re going to have a sport that’s growing globally and sustainably so they’re going to be the rugby fans of the future more broadly, we need to get them involved in rugby as early as possible and hold them. We really believe that sevens and this version of sevens, as an all-action entertainment product, can do that.

“That’s something we’ve been working on for a few years. It’s been brilliant to bring that to life – last week in Dubai and now in Cape Town. This is a real springboard for us in what is a massive year for rugby sevens, obviously culminating in the Olympic Games in Paris next July.”

World Rugby’s Director of Experiential, Greta Cooper, explained: “Rugby will always remain at the heart of everything we do but we’re tapping into the passion points and what 18 to 34-year-olds really engage with. We’re doing that through food and drink, music and entertainment, and health and wellness.”

Cooper added that the “always-on entertainment strategy” which included DJs and entertainment within the stadium bowl and on the surrounding concourse, which featured a Beach Club, Sun Stage and Love Garden, had been hugely successful so far by engaging fans throughout the day.

“We had DJ Zinhle, who has over five million Instagram followers, out there and she was incredible last night. That’s what we want to tap into – how you have an elongated day [of entertainment] is what we’re all after as well,” she said.

“Sevens does a job for rugby that other parts of the sport don’t do,” added Gilpin.

“It definitely entertains in a different way. All over the world it attracts new fans to rugby that 15s doesn’t necessarily do so redialing up that part of sevens that does that – not just great action on the field with some amazing athletes as we’ve seen, but all the things we can do around that to keep people entertained for a full weekend.

"That’s a really important role for Sevens and yes, we’re off to a great start but there’s lots more work to do.”

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