Details of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023 have been announced with a pair of three-day combined men’s and women’s events taking place at Markötter Stadium in Stellenbosch on 20-22 and 28-30 April, 2023.
The winner of the 12-team women’s Challenger Series will gain the ultimate prize of automatic promotion to the Sevens World Series 2024 – the pinnacle of international rugby sevens.
The 12 women’s teams competing are the Springbok Women’s Sevens, Belgium, China, Colombia, Czechia, Hong Kong, Madagascar, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Thailand, and a team from South America yet to be confirmed.
The winner of the men’s Challenger Series, which also features 12 teams, will enter a four team play-off at the HSBC London Sevens in May 2023 together with the teams placed 12th-14th after 10 rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, with the winner of the play-off achieving Sevens World Series 2024 status.
The 12 men teams are Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The teams qualified via their ranking positions within their relevant regional competitions and the pool draw will take place once the full team line-ups are confirmed in early 2023.
The tournament replicates the Olympic Games competition format, with the 12 teams drawn into three pools of four. The top two from each as well as the two best third-placed finishers will qualify for the knockout stages with quarter-finals and semi-finals leading to the bronze and gold medal matches.
The Challenger Series was introduced in February 2020 to boost the development of rugby sevens across the globe and provide a clear promotion pathway to reach the pinnacle HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Japan were the inaugural men’s champions after topping the cumulative rankings from the two rounds hosted in Chile and Uruguay in 2020. The first women’s competition was scheduled to take place in Stellenbosch in March 2020 but had to be cancelled due to the onset of the global pandemic.
Following a one-year absence the Challenger Series returned in August 2022 with a standalone combined event hosted in Santiago, Chile, which saw Uruguay men and Japan women take the titles and secure promotion to the current edition of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
In 2024 the Challenger Series is expected to increase to three rounds and the top four ranked teams will enter a play-off with the bottom four placed Sevens World Series at a Grand Finale event, meaning four men’s and four women’s teams will have the opportunity to achieve promotion to the pinnacle level of international rugby sevens every year from 2024 onwards.
World Rugby Chief Competitions and Performance Officer Nigel Cass said: “The World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series is a vital competition for the continued development of international rugby sevens around the globe.
“Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations and continues to expand and captivate audiences with its dynamic, skillful and exciting nature, boosted by its highly impactful and successful appearances at the Olympic Games in Rio and Tokyo.
“The Challenger Series provides a clear pathway to reach the Sevens World Series, and teams from all six World Rugby regions have the opportunity to achieve their dreams and reach the pinnacle level of international rugby sevens through their efforts in the Challenger Series.
“The choice to host consecutive weekends in Stellenbosch was based on performance and sustainability factors and we look forward to working closely in partnership with the South Africa Rugby Union to deliver a high quality performance environment for players and teams to showcase their talents.”
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said: “We are very grateful to have the opportunity to host the two Challenger Series tournaments next year.
“The improvement across the board in Sevens Rugby over the last few years, and the competitiveness between all teams, makes for a superb product and we can’t wait to deliver these tournaments in Stellenbosch.
“With Rugby Sevens part of the Olympic Games, it will be a big occasion for all the teams involved and we would love nothing more than to see our own Springbok Women’s Sevens team play in Paris in 2024 – this could be the first step to achieving that dream.”
The inaugural event on the Challenger Series for women was supposed to be hosted in Stellenbosch in 2020, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-pandemic.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications and World Rugby