In a tight first test in Dubai, the South African women’s rugby team edged out fellow World Cup bound side Kazakhstan 22-17.
The South Africans were two points down at half time but a try in the second period from Zandile Nojoko was enough to settle the match in their favour.
The two test series had been set up to serve as preparation for both teams who will be at the Women's Rugby World Cup in England in August and on the evidence of the first result, the games will be excellent warm-ups for these teams.
The more experienced Kazakhstan side, currently the top-ranked outfit in Asia, started strongly in this match and had their opponents on the back foot with powerful forward drives. Kazakhstan deservedly took the lead with an unconverted try from Anna Yakovleva after just five minutes setting out their stall with some impressive drives up front.
South Africa replied immediately when leftwing Phumeza Gadu showed good pace to level the scores at 5-5 with an impressive individual effort. Kazakhstan continued to use their big forwards in an effort to dominate and their tactic paid off handsomely when they added two further tries from Luydmila Sherer and Svetlana Zhernovnikova, to stretch their lead to 17-5.
Fullback Yolanda Meiring started the South African comeback with a 40 meter penalty in windy conditions. SA made the halftime score 17-15 after prop Cebisa Kula ran 22m for the best try of the match, after good work from Gadu and fly half Zandile Nojoko. Meiring converted to cut the Kazakhstan lead to just two points.
In the second half the South Africans gained better possession and Nojoko eventually scored the winning try after she again outsprinted the defence. Meiring missed the conversion and also two penalties, but the South African defence held firm for a historic first win on foreign soil.
SA Womens coach, Denver Wannies, said They showed great commitment and concentration when were 5-17 behind. It was a very good team effort and I am obviously delighted by the outcome, however, we will not get carried away and we all know that we face another tough match on Saturday."
The second encounter between the two teams will be played on Saturday at the same venue.