Rugby Tens Championship 2023 – Pool Play Day 1 Wrap
The third edition of the Rugby Tens Championship (R10C) kicked off on Saturday at Charles Morkel Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa with six franchises of Men, Women, Boys and Girls, and mixed-play, a world premiere in team sports.
The six R10C franchises, Balkans Honey Badgers (Europe / Middle East), Cape Town Wild Dogs (Southern Africa), San Clemente Rhinos (North America), Serengeti Elephants (Eastern Africa), Blue Bulls x Boland Rugby (newly shared ownership) and DHL Western Province Invitational showcased professional and Academy rugby in a fantastically competitive and impressive Day One in Strand, Cape Town.
Reigning Franchise Champions from 2022, the Honey Badgers opened the tournament with their men’s team up first to take on the Serengeti Elephants. It was a physical battle with many stars from the HSBC Sevens series featuring on both sides. With the sides tied at 7-7 a piece, a scathing run from the South African, and young local player from Helderberg Rugby, Michael Visser down the wing to score a try on his home grounds to swing the momentum in the Honey Badgers favour, who eventually took the game 17-14.
The Honey Badgers women’s team were back to keep their clean sheet and took the win over the South African side, Boland Rugby, with French flyer Meg Mambe leading the physical charge and scoring a hat trick. Boland responded with some seriously speedy breakaways to score two stunning tries but they fell to the Honey Badgers who finished with a strong points difference of 50-12.
Some fantastic battles ensued such as between Elephants and Wild Dogs women’s teams. The Kenyan forces of Stellah Wafula and Grace Okulu made a huge impression for the Elephants and took the win by 19 points to 7.
Cape Town Wild Dogs Men’s team, led by former Springboks Assistant Coach, Dick Muir, announced their arrival in Cape Town with an exciting try-filled victory over the Serengeti Elephants. A fabulous chip and chase for Jayden Bantom was the highlight with the crowd loving the action and getting right into it as the stands began to fill. The final score was 26-0.
Rhinos men also opened their account with a fantastic win over Western Province. A slick short pop from Springbok Sevens star Branco du Preez to teammate Johannes Luttig was a game highlight and contributed to their momentum to take a close 22-17 win. The Rhinos Women’s team also put in a well fought W on the board to kick off the 2023 competition and beat Boland Dames 39-0.
Saturday saw the launch of mixed-play, a world premiere in team sports where franchises battle in the same match with both genders. One gender team from each franchise takes on the 1st half and the other gender team from each franchise finishes with the 2nd half, sequence decided as a strategy at coin toss.
A world first, launched by R10C, it’s the first time that mixed rugby has ever been adapted as a concept and played competitively in any rugby tournament to date.
The Honey Badgers and the Western Province had the honour of being part of the first game in history and it was the women’s sides who took to the field first. The first teams have the challenge of setting up the best possible platform for their counterparts to take over after half time. The Honey Badgers put their foot on the gas throughout with both teams taking no prisoners and racking up as many points as possible. Every point could make a difference in the fight for the Franchise Cup and the 55-5 win will be valuable, with bonus point awarded as well, as the competition progresses.
The Wild Dogs and Rhinos had a much more tightly contested mixed game with the men’s Rhinos side scoring two tries before giving way to the women to take over. With a 12-0 handicap, the Wild Dogs women fought back to get one try on the board and pushed very closely for the score to tie up the sides, but the Rhinos just about held out to win 12-5. The Mixed games were hugely exciting, and it is surely a pivotal moment for how this tournament will progress in the future.
In the later games of the day there were wins from the Honey Badgers, Rhinos and Wild Dogs on the men’s side of the competition, leaving the Wild Dogs to finish top of the table after round one. On the women’s side of the tournament the Wild Dogs and Rhinos finished with wins on the board while the Serengeti Elephants handed the Honey Badgers their first defeat ever at the R10C, just about holding onto a two-point lead to win 7-5.
In the Academy divisions of the six Franchises that run concurrently with the professional senior tournament, there was a lot of young talent on show. The Serengeti Elephants Boys take up the top spot of the table after round one, with the Rhinos on top on the girls’ side. The Honey Badgers Boys and the Rhinos girls were the winning teams in 2022. Can both teams defend their title in the youth series this year? We’ll find out more on this coming Wednesday November 22, when all teams return to the Charles Morkel Stadium to continue their pools battle for the finals and the Rugby Tens Championship Franchise Trophy.
The Finals of Rugby Tens Championship will take place on 25 November 2023. The event is streamed live on the https://tv.rugbytens.com/ , as well as via https://www.therugbynetwork.com/
The Rugby Tens Championship (R10C) is a professional Rugby 10s competition that offers equal opportunities to athletes worldwide. Through its franchises, each fielding men’s, women’s, boys’, and girls’ teams, R10C is committed to promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in rugby.
For more information R10C, visit RugbyTens.com
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