South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar and Cameroon will begin their quest for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV qualification when the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup 2024 gets underway in Antananarivo on Saturday.

Taking place in Madagascar for the second successive year having drawn impressive crowds to Stade Makis for all three match-days 12 months ago, the 2024 edition of the Women’s Cup will feature three rounds of action between 4-12 May.

Whoever finishes the final round on top of the standings will seal their passage to both England 2025 and WXV 2 in South Africa. The runners-up will compete in WXV 3 in Dubai this September and October.

South Africa will start as favourites to lift a third regional title and take Africa’s place at a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The Springbok Women have won all six of the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup matches they have played, en route to becoming champions in both 2019 and 2023.

Last year, South Africa beat their three rivals by an aggregate score of 214-8 and they will hope to kick off their title defence in style on Saturday when they take on Cameroon.

Only three players who started South Africa’s 87-0 victory against Cameroon in Antananarivo 12 months ago have been selected in Louis Koen’s starting line-up for Saturday.

However, Koen has been able to recall Sizophila Solontsi and Nomawethu Mabenge, the latter being the top try-scorer in the 2023 tournament with six.

Meanwhile, Samantha Els and Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen will make their first test starts, having appeared as replacements against Spain in March.

South Africa warmed up for the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup with a two-test tour of Europe in March, beating Spain 15-13 in Valladolid before losing 38-17 to USA in Ealing.

Koen is confident his charges can make a fast start in Antananarivo.

“We need to win the tournament to qualify for next year’s World Cup, so we cannot afford any mistakes,” he said.

“I think the team we’ve selected reflects that and gives acknowledgement to Cameroon, who will come at us physically, as we experienced last year.

“A strong start will give us the momentum for the rest of the campaign.”

The second match of day one pits hosts Madagascar against the team that pipped them to WXV 3 qualification last year, Kenya.

Madagascar pushed Kenya all the way 12 months ago, the Lionesses holding on to win 29-20 in front of a passionate home crowd.

With both sides beating Cameroon and losing to South Africa, that result ultimately sent Kenya to Dubai, where they finished fourth.

The result of the match will again prove crucial to each team’s hopes of qualifying for England 2025 and WXV.

With the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup following the same fixture schedule as 12 months ago, Kenya will go on to play South Africa on Wednesday, while Madagascar face Cameroon.

Kenya finish their campaign against Cameroon on Sunday, 12 May before the Springbok Women and the hosts bring the curtain down on the tournament.

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