Madagascar have reached their highest-ever position in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings following a 27-15 win over Kenya in Nairobi – their first international victory in what was their fourth test match.
The Ladies Makis started the weekend 34th in the world but are now up to 29th after beating opponents who were ranked 10 places higher than them. Kenya are now just four places better off in 25th.
The Lionesses have been overtaken in the rankings by Trinidad and Tobago as a result of their rating slipping to 44.72 points, while Madagascar’s rating has increased by two full points to 41.23.
Madagascar stormed into a 14-0 inside the first nine minutes thanks to tries from dynamic midfield duo, Sophie Razafitirosoa and Veronique Rasaineka. But it was only when Rasaineka scored her second 10 minutes from time that the game was safe, following a Kenyan fightback that involved three unconverted tries.
Dorcas Sinaida and Stacy Atieno crossed for the Lionesses in the first half before Michelle Akinyi added a third on 48 minutes to close the gap to seven points.
“The win came as a surprise to all of us; we know the history of the Kenyan team and their profile. They are more physical and athletic and that is why the win against them was surprising,” admitted Ladies Makis head coach Rafalimanana Joseph Berthin.
The last time these two sides met was almost two years ago in a Rugby World Cup qualifying tournament that also doubled up as the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup. Kenya won the game – Madagascar’s first-ever 15s international – 35-5.
Berthin believes that the only difference between then and now is how they interact as a team.
“Since that loss we have become more of a family. We are close-knit and the players play for each other,” he said.
In most African nations, there is a strong connection between sevens and 15s teams and Madagascar is no different. Their sevens team qualified for the recent Olympic repechage in Monaco but did not qualify for the global showpiece set to be held in Tokyo, Japan, later this month.
Berthin says the achievements of the Ladies Makis Sevens helped to spur his team on.
“Our failed Olympics qualification sparked some sort of a competition between the sevens team and the 15s team. What we are seeing is the 15s team trying as much as they can to reach the same heights as the sevens team did in Monaco,” he commented.
Madagascar will now look to make it two out of two when they take on the Kenya Lionesses in the second match of the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup on Sunday, 11 July at the Nyayo National Stadium.