SVNS “Second Division” kicks off this weekend

A fascinating part of the relaunch SVNS series starts this weekend in Dubai.

Published by John Birch, January 11th, 2024

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SVNS “Second Division” kicks off this weekend

This weekend the new Challenger Series kicks off in Dubai. Over the next four months, 12 national teams will be competing for one of four places in the new SVNS promotion and relegation playoff, to take place as part of the SVNS final in Madrid from 31 May-2 June.

As a result - for the first time since 2016 - no team will be automaticallly relegated from the SVNS Series. Even the bottom team will have a chance to win back their place (someting Ireland managed to do in 2016).

Officially this will be the third Challenger “Series” before, in 2019 although in practice the 2022 “Series” was a single tournament in Santiago (won by Japan) and last year’s saw two rounds played at the same location in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on successive weekends and won by South Africa. However, there were also near identical “qualification” tournaments almost annually between 2014 and 2019, mostly played in Hong Kong apart from 2015, which was in Dublin:

2014 (Hong Kong) – Qualifiers: Fiji and France (defeated in semi-finals: China and South Africa)

2015 (Dublin) – Qualifiers: Japan and Ireland (defeated in semi-finals: Netherlands and South Africa)

2016 (via Olympic repechage, Dublin) – Qualifier: Ireland (beat Kazakhstan for 3rd place)

2016 (via Rio Olympic Games) – Qualifier: Brazil (ahead of Japan, Kenya and Colombia)

2017 (Hong Kong) – Qualifier: Japan (beat South Africa in the final)

2018 (Hong Kong) – Qualifier: China (beat South Africa in the final)

2019 (Hong Kong) – Qualifier: Brazil (beat Scotland in the final)

2022 (Santiago) – Qualifier: Japan (beat Poland in the final)

2023 (Stellenbosch) - Qualifier: South Africa (runner-up Belgium)

But the big change is that now – at last – the game will see a proper series, with the Challenger becoming in effect the SVNS "Second Division". After Dubai the caravan will move on to Montevideo (8-10 March) and finally Krakow (18-19 May) before the Grand Final in Madrid.

The top four from this series will take on the bottom four teams in the World Series (after six rounds) to compete for four places in the 2024/25 SVNS series.

Qualification for this series was via last year’s regional seven championships, and all 12 teams have reached this stage before. Only China have previously won (in 2018), but Belgium and Poland have narrowly missed out as runners-up in 2023 and 2022:

* Mexico return for an eighth time and have never missed a Qualifier or Challenger

* China take part for the seventh time

* Belgium, Hong Kong, Kenya and Papua New Guinea make their sixth appearances

* Argentina and Poland appear for a fifth time. It should be Argentina’s sixth appearance but for unpublished reasons they withdrew last year.

* Czechia, Paraguay, Thailand and Uganda return for a second time. The first three played last year, while Uganda last appeared in 2019.

Belgium, Czechia, Poland and China have all beaten current World Series teams last year, and these four start as likely favourites. Belgium and Poland beat Ireland and Great Britain respectively in the quarter-finals of the Hamburg leg of the European Championship; Czechia famously knocked Spain out of the European Olympic qualifier; and China beat Japan in the final of the Asian Games.