Thrilling start to Africa Cup

Wins for South Africa and Madagascar set up a potential decider next weekend.

Published by John Birch, May 4th, 2024

5 minute read

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Thrilling start to Africa Cup

The Rugby Africa Cup Division 1 has returned to Antananarivo, Madagascar – and what a dramatic start the tournament had on its opening day.

South Africa 55 Cameroon 0

The day opened with the favourites taking on the least experienced team. For South Africa the aim is to get to the World Cup, for Cameroon their expressed aim is to just stay in Division 1.

Nonetheless it took the ‘Boks 12 minutes to finally get on the board through Ealing’s Lindewa Gwlal, as South Africa finally managed to get their maul moving.

That continued to be the main tactic, and it brought a second try after 25m, and a third after 31. Cameroon having no real answer to the maul, Gwlal had a hattrick and the ‘Boks led 19-0 at halftime.

Quick thinking gave the ‘Boks a fourth try early in the second half as Cameroon prepared for a maul, and left a huge gap for the South African wing to go through. 24-0.

With Cameroon now concentrating everything on the maul, quick South African hands found a massive overlap and a fifth try. The Bo’s now switch to using their backs taking advantage of the tiring Cameroon. Four more tries followed, three for Maceala Samboya.

Madagascar 29 Kenya 22

The first match was just a warm-up for what was to come.

This game had been close in 2023 – Kenya winning 29-20 – now it would go down to the line.

Two contrasting teams. The much bigger Kenyan team, with a team based on using their forward power, and Madagascar, with blisteringly fast backs a determination to run everything.

It started well for Kenya, with a try in the 7th minute. A maul on the left sucked in the Malagasy defence, the ball was swept to the right, and Kenya score from the overlap. 0-7 to Kenya.

A second try followed ten minutes later and Kenya seemed in total command, leading 0-12. Madagascar had not yet got out of their half.

But now Madagascar began to show what they could do. Given any space at all they ran the ball, and they found gaps to run into and were finally rewarded with a try right at the end of the half, Kenya going in just 12-5 ahead in a game where they had dominated possession and territory.

Madagascar stayed on the field throughout the break, building the enthusiasm of the crowd, perhaps knowing that they would have the advantage of a stiff breeze for the second 40.

It took them five minutes to score their second try, the inside centre stepping through most of the Kenyan defence to put her scrumhalf away. 10-12.

Kenya soon pulled back ahead with a maul that the Malagasy could not stop (10-17), but another well taken try in the 56’ and the score was tied at 17-17, before on the hour a clever line out move put the home team ahead for the first time 22-17.

But Kenya came back again, tying the score at 22-22 as the game went into the final 10 minutes. And into the final minute.

Kenya had scrum on 5m, but just could not get over the line. A lineout and maul was also stopped. Madagascar turned over and a huge kick downfield (aided by that wind) turned defence into attack, and the game is turned on its head. Madagascar score, wild celebrations from the crowd, the whistle blows and Madagascar have win 29-22.

"And the crowd goes wild..."

Also played today...

Zimbabwe 19, Zambia 17

Two teams very unlucky to miss out on a chance to play in the Africa Cup met to open a rugby festival at Prince Edward School in Harare. All the points were in the first half, leading to a tense second half and finish. More details if and when we get them.