Sport

Springbok Women Ruck and Maul

Euro tour a light at the end of the tunnel for Bok Women after Rugby World Cup disappointment

Euro tour a light at the end of the tunnel for Bok Women after Rugby World Cup disappointment
Aphiwe Ngwevu of the Springboks during the Women's World Cup qualifier against Uganda at Bosman Stadium in Brakpan in 2019. As one of the participating teams at RWC 2021, the Springbok women’s side were affected by the postponement. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

The Springbok women’s team is currently touring Europe where it will test its strength against some of the continent’s best players with the hopes of sharpening itself for the 2022 Rugby World Cup and beyond. 

Following the disappointment of having the Women’s Rugby World Cup postponed by a year, there was despondency among the members of the Springbok Women’s team.

In March 2021, the game’s global governing body — World Rugby — vetted a postponement of the global showpiece by a year. The tournament, initially touted for September 2021, is now set to take place from 8 October 2022.

“We recognise that they will be extremely disappointed, but I would like to assure them that the decision to postpone has been made entirely in the interests of their welfare, well-being and preparation and the desire to put on a showcase tournament that will super-charge women’s rugby globally,” World Rugby’s chairperson Bill Beaumont said at the time.

Fast forward to eight months later, and Bok women are staring at an extremely bright light at the end of the tunnel — in the form of their ongoing tour of Europe.

During the tour, the team is poised to face France and Wales, before clashing with the Barbarians at the historic Twickenham stadium in London. Prior to that final clash, they will play a training match with England’s U-20 team.

Both the Welsh and the French will be in New Zealand in 2022 for the World Cup. As such, matches against the duo will be a good barometer for coach Stanley Raubenheimer and his technical team on where they are in their preparations.

This is even more true with regards to France, who are ranked fourth in the world and are in the same pool as South Africa for the World Cup.  

“We have not played much rugby the last two years due to various reasons, so we need a reality check on where we are with our progress and preparation,” said Raubenheimer.

“France are currently ranked fourth on the world rankings, so to measure ourselves against them will be a good reference point on what we need to do before the Rugby World Cup tournament in New Zealand next year,” he added.

“We don’t want to leave it until next year to see what France have to offer and by playing them now, we will see where we are intensity-wise and what step-up would be required. Another interesting aspect of the tour is that we will be playing four matches in as many weeks, another important factor our players will be exposed to.”

Inside insight

Following the short stints of Babalwa Latsha and Kimico Manuel in Europe before Covid-19, another Bok woman, Zintle Mpupha, has ventured overseas.

The centre penned a one-year deal with English side Exeter Chiefs one month ago and is hopeful that her experiences during her time so far in Europe will benefit the team as they navigate this historic tour.

“I will certainly inform them what to expect,” she said. “They will have to cope with different weather conditions, amongst other things, and will have to deliver their best away from home. I am sure if we can adapt quickly as a team, things will go well.”

The 28-year-old former Border and Western Province player said the experience she has gained so far made her realise that the players here at home just need more game time as they ramp up preparations towards next year’s World Cup.

“It was nice to experience the different outlooks and mindsets of my teammates from other countries at the Chiefs and the one thing I realised by talking to them was the amount of rugby they play compared to us,” Mpupha said.

“They obviously play a lot more than we do, so they have more opportunities to learn from their mistakes, become better players and grow in their roles and positions. That is something we do not have much of in South Africa. But apart from that, we think about the game pretty much the same.”

Mpupha and her teammates will have their fingers crossed that SA Rugby can line up a lot more of such tours in future as it will undoubtedly improve the team and their performances; not only as they push towards the World Cup, but as they continue to grow as a rugby team. DM

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