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7s series highlights growth of African rugby

This weekend saw the latest Rugby Africa regional sevens – and yet another international sevens debut for an African nation.

Zambia - the latest winners of a Rugby Africa Regional 7s

The fourth of Rugby Africa’s regional sevens tournaments took place this weekend in Burundi. Acting as qualifiers for the continental championship later this year – which will also be a qualifier for the Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup – these tournaments have seen a string nations making their internationals debuts or returning to the field after long breaks, demonstrating the remarkable growth of women's rugby on the continent since the arrival of Maha Zaoui as Rugby Africa’s first Women’s Rugby Manager in 2020.

This weekend saw not just the debut of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also the return to international rugby by Cameroon (playing for the first time since 2011) and hosts Burundi (playing for the first time since 2007).

This followed the debuts of Lesotho at the Southern Africa regional 7s in January, Algeria at the Northern Regionals in December, and the return of Togo and Cote d'Ivorie after 12 years away at the West Africa Regional 7s.

Overall, in just four tournaments, seven nations have either played for the first time, or returned to international sevens after a decade or more.

The results of the actual tournaments have seen Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and this weekend Zambia qualify for the next stage, but abiding memories will perhaps be things like the Cameroon men’s team rushing on to congratulate their women’s team winning two games in less than an hour this weekend at Bujumbura in Burundi after the Cameroonians arrived late and had to play all of their fixtures back-to-back. Zambia’s winning celebrations were almost staid in comparison.

That and DR Congo coming so close – twice – to recording a win on their international debut.

Only a few years ago there were only four or five active women’s rugby nations in Africa. Now it seems that most of the continent is playing.

West Africa Regional Sevens (Kumasi, Ghana) 27-28/11/2021
Burkina Faso 12 - 0 Benin; Cote d'Ivorie 20 - 0 Togo; Ghana 19 - 17 Burkina Faso; Burkina Faso 27 - 0 Togo; Ghana 41 - 0 Benin; Cote d'Ivorie 17 - 0 Burkina Faso; Benin 12 - 5 Togo; Burkina Faso 29 - 0 Togo; Ghana 29 - 12 Cote d'Ivorie

North Africa Regional (Alexandria) 17/12/2021
Egypt 14 - 28 Algeria; Algeria 7 - 22 Senegal; Egypt 5 - 29 Senegal; Senegal 19 - 5 Algeria

Southern Africa Regional (Mejametalana , Lesotho) 29-30/01/2022
Lesotho 0 - 62 Zimbabwe; Botswana 12 - 21 Mauritius; Zimbabwe 39 - 0 Namibia; Botswana 30 - 5 Lesotho; Mauritius 10 - 17 Namibia; Zimbabwe 39 - 0 Botswana; Mauritius 31 - 0 Lesotho; Botswana 10 - 12 Namibia; Zimbabwe 25 - 0 Mauritius; Namibia 38 - 5 Lesotho

Central African Regional (Bujumbura, Burundi) 13/03/2022
Burundi 0 - 47 Zambia; DR Congo 0 - 42 Zambia; Burundi 5 - 5 DR Congo; Zambia 43 - 5 Cameroon; Cameroon 19 - 12 DR Congo; Burundi 0 - 5 Cameroon