Hosts South Africa and Kenya are now just one win away from securing the region's qualification ticket to Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand after maintaining their winning records on Tuesday in the Rugby Africa Women's Cup in Brakpan.
Played under blue skies at the Bosman Stadium, Kenya kicked off the second round of the inaugural competition with a seven-try, 37-5 victory over a Ugandan side that battled hard in a tight first half before succumbing to the Lionesses' attacking prowess.
South Africa knew they would do well to match their 89-5 win over Uganda in round one and they came up against a Madagascan side that showed plenty of promises in what was only their second test. The Springbok Women, however, showed no mercy and ran in tries at regular intervals as well as keeping opponents scoreless for the first time in more than nine years.
“There were people who said from the outset it would be between us and Kenya for that spot, and it has come down that. So it is now up to us to go out there and perform on Saturday,” said South Africa coach Stanley Raubenheimer.
Defending champions New Zealand, England, France, USA, Canada, Australia and Wales have already confirmed their places with a top seven placing at WRWC 2017. The Rugby Africa Women's Cup 2019 winner will join them, with the runner-up to face the winner of the South American competition next year for a place in the global repechage.
So all eyes will now be on Saturday's final round with the two unbeaten sides, South Africa and Kenya, ready to face off while Uganda and Madagascar will be searching for their first wins of the campaign in the first fixture of the day.
SOUTH AFRICA 73-0 MADAGASCAR
Fielding an identical starting XV that defeated Uganda 89-5 in round one, South Africa produced another clinical display to move a step closer towards qualification for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.
Madagascar fought gamely in what was only their second international match, but they were powerless to stop the bigger and more experienced Springbok Women running amok on the sun-baked turf in Brakpan.
Full-back Eloise Webb got the scoring underway before influential second-row Rights Mkhari and winger Snenhlanhla Shozi helped themselves to a brace of tries.
Unfortunately for kicker Tayla Kinsey, all five tries were scored close to the left touchline and out of her range. However, she was presented with a much simpler opportunity when the long-striding Mkhari cruised under the posts for her hat-trick – her second of the competition – with half an hour gone.
There was still time for two more tries before the break with number eight Aseza Hele picking up at the base of an advancing scrum to power over, Kinsey again converting, before winger Ayanda Malinga got in on the act to make the half-time score 44-0.
Shortly after centre Zintle Mpupha had strolled through the defence to open the second-half scoring, Malinga was in again as South Africa continued to pile on the points.
Hele got her second of the match when she busted through a tackle to score try number 11 before Aphiwe Ngwevu became the fifth player to score multiple tries in the match with a quickfire brace, on 63 and 70 minutes.
Madagascar pressed hard for a score of their own, but they were stopped on or behind the gain-line time and time again.
They finished the match in disappointing fashion when replacement Andoniaina Randrianarijaona was yellow carded for stamping, but will have learned plenty from their more experienced opponents to take into their final match against Uganda.
KENYA 37-5 UGANDA
Kenya turned on the style in the second half to register their second win of the tournament and set up a winner-takes-all title decider with South Africa on Saturday.
Leading 3-0 after an erratic first half, Kenya – who had already beaten Uganda twice this year in the Women's Elgon Cup – ran in seven tries after the break to one with full-back Janet Okelo and fly-half Grace Adhiambo getting a brace of tries apiece.
Uganda started well enough with their big forwards driving up through the middle and making good ground in the early stages. However, a high penalty count and an inability to clear their lines hurt them badly in terms of possession and territory.
The Lady Cranes stole a lineout and then held up a Kenyan opponent over the line before a brilliant cover tackle on Stella Wafula caused the winger to cough up possession as she reached for the try-line.
With a plethora of handling errors from both sides conspiring to make the match a stop-start affair, the only points of the half came from the boot of Adhiambo who drop-kicked a penalty attempt in the 17th minute.
Whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time clearly worked for Kenya as they came out all guns blazing.
A first-phase strike move on halfway led to Okelo crossing in the 43rd minute and six minutes later she scored again to take her tally for the tournament to three, Adhiambo converting on this occasion for a 15-0 lead.
After Juliet Nandawula missed a chance to get Uganda on the scoreboard with a missed penalty attempt, Kenya increased their lead to 20-0 on the hour mark when hooker Stacy Atieno crashed over.
To their credit, Uganda never gave up hope and after winning a succession of penalties and building pressure in the Kenya 22, they manufactured a score in the corner for their lithe full-back Samiya Ajikoru.
Kenya, however, were in no mood to finish the match with a whimper and Adhiambo helped herself to a brace of tries, the first from a brilliant run down the left wing, while Uganda were down to 14 players.
Sheila Chajira got her name on the scoresheet just before time was up, Wambui doing what three other players had failed to do beforehand in successfully adding the conversion.