RUGBY: BRING ON LES BLEUES
Nolusindiso Booi to lead Springbok Women against France
Nolusindiso Booi will lead the Springbok Women for the first time since 2018 when they take on France in their November Series opener in Vannes on Saturday.
Springbok Women coach Stanley Raubenheimer has turned to the experienced Nolusindiso Booi to lead the team in their daunting northern hemisphere tour opener against France on Saturday.
The clash against the No 4-ranked team in the world will be a huge challenge for a Bok team that has not played against a tier-one side since losing to Scotland in 2019.
The tour is about growth and development with an eye to next year’s World Cup in New Zealand, and with that focus Raubenheimer also handed first starts to Libbie Janse van Rensburg (flyhalf) and the uncapped Nadine Roos (wing).
The experienced Booi last played for South Africa in 2018 and makes a much-anticipated return to the squad, which will also be bolstered by the return of scrumhalf Tayla Kinsey, prop Babalwa Latsha and lock Rights Mkhari. The trio missed out on the August Test series against Kenya in Stellenbosch due to injury.
Roos has played for the Springbok Women’s Sevens team since 2016 and in 2020 converted to the fifteens code, while Janse van Rensburg, who takes over the No 10 jersey from Zenay Jordaan, made her debut against Kenya.
Booi (24 caps) and Kinsey (15 caps) are the most experienced players in the squad and alongside replacement prop Asithandile Ntoyanto, the only players with Rugby World Cup experience.
EP Queens wing Nomawethu Mabenge also missed out on the series against Kenya due to injury, but 16 of the match-23 featured in the Stellenbosch Test squad.
Roseline Botes (hooker) and Amahle Nyoba (prop) are the other uncapped players in the squad and are in line to make their Test debuts from the bench. Nyoba, though, was in the match-day squad against Kenya, but did not play.
“Only Zenay Jordaan, who picked up a bug last week, was not considered as she could not train with the squad in the last couple of days,” said Raubenheimer.
“I have confidence in the players selected, but there can be no doubt that we will be up against a very good side. France are in the top tier of international women’s rugby and we are outside the top 10, but be it as it may, we are determined to take as much out of this game as possible.
“We will play France again in less than 11 months when we face them as our first opponents at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and after Saturday will have a better understanding of where we are in our preparation.”
Raubenheimer hopes a tweak in their tactical approach and attitude about protecting the ball will be executed by his squad in their third meeting against France. Les Bleues won the last encounter 31-3 in Paris in 2014.
“This is very much about what we want to achieve in certain areas of the game,” he said.
“We want to hold onto the ball for longer and have tweaked our kicking game as well after the 50/22 law came into effect.
“France bring an all-round game to the field, and we will find their intensity a huge challenge. That said, we wanted to play them for a reason, which is to be confronted by that intensity. We have to measure ourselves against the best teams in the world and this is such a test for us.”
Opportunity to grow
Experienced flank Lusanda Dumke said the team were relishing the opportunity and enjoying the experience of being on a long tour. The Boks meet Wales and the Barbarians after the clash against France.
“We are all very pleased for this opportunity. This squad is one that just wants to go out and play rugby as we love the game,” Dumke said. “The fact that we are playing France first-up could be a daunting task as they are one of the best teams in the world, but what do we have to lose? The pressure will be on them, not on us, and we will be able to focus on what we want to achieve in the game.
“There is a good mix of experience and youth in the squad and this creates a nice vibe and lots of energy. We tend to play well when the vibe is good, so we cannot wait to get over to France and get going.”
Centre Jakkie Cilliers, who has played one Test, is one of several inexperienced players in the squad. Her approach is to absorb as much information as possible and learn about Test rugby.
The outside centre scored 10 points on debut against Kenya in August and feels that performance gives her some comfort with what awaits in the coming weeks.
“No doubt, this will be a tour of learnings for the squad,” said the North-West University student. “For many of us this is our first overseas trip and will face our opponents for the first time, and that makes it very exciting.
“The travelling schedule and the rugby on consecutive weekends, as well as the quality and intensity of play, will be something we will experience for the first time as a squad and if we stick together we can move only forward.”
Kick-off is at 4pm (South African time) at Stade de la Rabine and the match will be broadcast by SABC Sport (channel to be confirmed by SABC).
Springbok Women’s team to face France:
15 Eloise Webb, 14 Nomawethu Mabeng, 13 Zintle Mpupha, 12 Chumisa Qawe, 11 Nadine Roos, 10 Libbie Janse van Rensburg, 9 Tayla Kinsey, 8 Sizophila Solontsi, 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa, 6 Lusanda Dumke, 5 Rights Mkhari, 4 Nolusindiso Booi (capt), 3 Babalwa Latsha, 2 Lindelwa Gwala, 1 Yonela Ngxingolo.
16 Roseline Botes, 17 Asithandile Ntoyanto, 18 Amahle Nyoba, 19 Catha Jacobs, 20 Ziyanda Ngohlekana, 21 Unam Tose, 22 Jakkie Cilliers, 23 Ayanda Malinga. DM