The Springbok Women are currently a few days into their second Rugby World Cup 2021 training camp, with a mixture of older heads and newcomers making up the 35-strong group of players being put through their paces in Stellenbosch. The side are returning to international action for the first time in almost two years in a two-test series against Kenya, with the matches, also to be held in Stellenbosch, scheduled for 12 and 16 August.
The fortnight-long camp, which began on Friday, includes a number of Women’s Premier and First Division star performers and six players who appeared at Rugby World Cup 2014 in France, namely captain and second-row Nolusindiso Booi, winger Veroeshka Grain, fly-half Zenay Jordaan, scrum-half Tayla Kinsey, prop Asithandile Ntoyanto and hooker Thantaswa Macingwane.
Jordaan also appeared at Rugby World Cup 2010 and says it would be “very special” if she got to play in a third tournament in New Zealand at next year’s delayed tournament.
The Springbok Women will face France in the opening Rugby World Cup match at Eden Park in Auckland on 8 October 2022, before lining up against tournament debutants Fiji at Waitakere Stadium on Sunday, 16 October, and England in Whangārei on Sunday, 23 October, in the pool stages of the competition.
“It is a milestone for everyone going there, especially for those who haven’t had an opportunity to play at a Rugby World Cup,” said the 25-cap international.
“I think it would be a real honour for me to play in another 15s World Cup. I have played in three Sevens Rugby World Cups so to add a third to the tally in 15s would be really special.
“But, having said that, for me it is about the team. As I said previously, at the qualifiers, I wouldn’t leave the game not knowing that I haven’t given my best. Contributing to the team’s success is what is really important for me.”
Jordaan says it is good timing that Women’s Day in South Africa falls within the training camp, enabling the Springbok Women to celebrate together.
“It is a huge day for women in South Africa. It is special to have a day to celebrate women and what they do no matter what industry they are in. It really inspires us as women to give our best and excel at what we do.
“Women play an important role in all facets of society and we are all really excited we will be able to celebrate this together in camp as a team.”
A dozen newcomers are also included in the Springbok Women’s training group in addition to more experienced campaigners like Jordaan, as the talent pool in South African begins to deepen with a more competitive and robust club structure now supporting the national team.
“We kept a close eye on the players’ performances in the Women’s Premier and First Division competitions and we were immensely impressed by the quality of rugby on offer, and by the sensational performances by a number of individuals,” said Springbok Women’s head coach Stanley Raubenheimer.
“Several of these newcomers have shown their class consistently since the competition kicked off and we are excited to see how they’ll respond in the national set-up as we build toward next year’s spectacle.”
Congratulations to the Border Ladies, champions of the 2021 Women's Premier Division after they beat DHL WP by 24-15 in the final in Cape Town. pic.twitter.com/h9dt7hkTRa— Springbok Women (@WomenBoks) July 16, 2021
Narrowing the gap
Jordaan plays for Eastern Province Queens, who achieved a third-place finish in the Premier Division, and has noted how the pathway between provincial rugby and international rugby continues to improve under the guidance of SA Rugby High Performance Manager for Women’s Rugby, Lynne Cantwell.
“I think it is important to play as many games as possible because that is where one learns so much about the game and about one’s self as an individual and your team,” said the stalwart of the Springbok Women’s team.
“The women’s game in South Africa is being taken care of and is really growing and making some strides in the right direction, to at least make sure we can narrow the gap with all the top women’s rugby countries.
“We are focused on the process rather than the outcome at the moment and we are doing everything possible to ensure we will be ready to compete at the World Cup in New Zealand next year. I think we are on the right track.”
New formations are being tried in match simulation situations during the camp as the Springbok Women attempt to embed a style of play that will make them competitive in New Zealand next October.
“We would like to play matches during this camp, and if we do not face an opposition team, we will have two or three internal games, perhaps against boys’ teams from the Western Cape,” said Cantwell.
“The players will then return to their provinces and the intention, later on, is to travel to the UK in November. We haven’t confirmed a schedule yet, but we’re hoping to play some internationals to try to get an understanding of the level at which the team is as we look ahead to the World Cup.”
"The fire is still burning"
Ever since she first took up the game as a young child, Jordaan has always enjoyed trying new things out.
The fly-half used to sneak out of her bedroom window to practice when she was supposed to be studying and the 30-year-old insists her enthusiasm is the same now as it was back then.
Born into a sporting household on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Jordaan’s father Wilfred would wake her up early in the morning to watch matches on television. She still barely misses a game.
“I just can’t stay away from the TV when rugby is on. I sometimes watch it as a fan but at the same time I look at certain things and what I can take from it and learn,” she said.
“I am still so much in love with the game and that fire is still burning really strong.”
Springbok Women’s Rugby World Cup preparation camp squad: Alichia Arries (wing, DHL Western Province), Nolusindiso Booi (second-row, DHL Western Province), Sanelisiwe Charlie (prop, EP Queens), Jacomina Cilliers (centre, Leopards), Lusanda Dumke (loose forward, Border Ladies), Veroeshka Grain (wing, DHL Western Province), Lindelwa Gwala (hooker, Cell C Sharks Women), Micke Gunter (hooker, Cell C Sharks Women), Catharina Jacobs (utility forward, Blue Bulls Women), Libbie Janse van Rensburg (fly-half, Blue Bulls Women), Zenay Jordaan (fly-half, EP Queens), Tayla Kinsey (scrum-half, Cell C Sharks Women), Nomawethu Mabenge (wing, EP Queens), Thantaswa Macingwane (hooker, Blue Bulls Women), Lerato Makua (second-row, Blue Bulls Women), Ayanda Malinga (wing, Blue Bulls Women), Nompumelelo Mathe (utility forward, Cell C Sharks Women), Monica Mazibukwana (hooker, EP Queens), Sinazo Mcatshulwa (loose forward, DHL Western Province), Rights Mkhari (second-row, Blue Bulls Women), Zintle Mpupha (centre, DHL Western Province), Simamkele Namba (wing, DHL Western Province), Ziyanda Ngohlekana (loose forward, SWD), Aphiwe Ngwevu (centre, Boland Dames), Yonela Ngxingolo (prop, Border Ladies), Asithandile Ntoyanto (prop, Border Ladies), Amahle Nyoba (prop, EP Queens), Rumandi Potgieter (scrum-half, Blue Bulls Women), Chumisa Qawe (centre, DHL Western Province), Donelle Snyders (full-back, DHL Western Province), Sizophila Solontsi (loose forward, Cell C Sharks Women), Buhlebethu Sonamzi (hooker, EP Queens), Bernice Strydom (second-row, Boland Dames), Unam Tose (scrum-half, Border Ladies), Eloise Webb (full-back, Boland Dames).