Preparations for WXV continued apace in Cape Town and Tokyo over the weekend, where South Africa and Japan registered warm-up victories.
Springbok Women winger Veroeshka Grain marked her return to test rugby with a hat-trick to help her side to a 77-12 defeat of Kenya at the University of Western Cape on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Japan withstood a late comeback from Fiji to record a 41-36 win and wrap up a 2-0 victory in the teams’ two-test series.
Japan will travel to Cape Town and Stellenbosch next month to take part in the inaugural edition of WXV 2, and have matches against Italy, Samoa and Scotland to look forward to.
Hosts South Africa will play the same opposition across three rounds at Danie Craven Stadium and Athlone Sports Stadium between 13-28 October.
Fiji and Kenya, meanwhile, will compete in WXV 3 in Dubai across the same period. Fijiana and the Lionesses have both been drawn to play Colombia, Spain and Kazakhstan at The Sevens Stadium.
Having watched his side overcome a tough first-half workout against Kenya to run in 13 tries in Cape Town, interim head coach Louis Koen believes the Springbok Women can “inspire young girls to take up the game”.
A South Africa XV showing changes from the one that won the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup 2023 in May were made to work hard for their 24-12 half-time lead in Cape Town.
However, they reaped the benefit of that graft to cross the whitewash nine times in the second half, including maiden test tries for Byrhandré Dolf and debutant Unathi Mali.
“This was a typical test match – it was physical and hard, and we had to chip away at Kenya. I said to the players that we cannot expect a wall to fall down with one blow, but it will fall if you chip away repeatedly and that is how it panned out,” Koen said.
“We are without a number of players that played in the Africa Cup, so there were a lot of new faces. Credit to them for stepping up and credit to the regular squad for integrating them so well into the structures.
“I think the good work of our assistant coaches, Laurian Johannes-Haupt and Franzel September, over the last couple of weeks are really showing now, as well as the impact of our conditioning and wrestling sessions. We are on track for the WXV tournament in October.
“We want to inspire young girls to take up the game and it was heart-warming to see the enthusiasm amongst them at the game. We are hoping to build on that in the next couple of weeks and enjoy good support once WXV starts.”
Meanwhile, Japan were made to sweat before completing their second win against Fijiana in six days as their visitors threatened to mount a late revival.
When captain Iroha Nagata dotted down her second try, and Japan’s sixth, with less than 14 minutes remaining at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, it gave the Sakura 15s a 41-24 lead.
However, Nunia Delaimoala and Jennifer Ravutia each scored their second tries of the match in the final 10 minutes to set up a nervy finish in Tokyo.
The hosts held on, though, to back up their 29-24 victory from the previous weekend and they will travel to Parma to face Italy on 30 September full of confidence.
With the higher-ranked teams winning both matches, there were no changes to the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini.