Sport

ROAD TO THE WORLD CUP

The sky’s the limit as pieces continue to fall in place for Bok women

The sky’s the limit as pieces continue to fall in place for Bok women
Chumisa Qawe of the Springboks in action during the Women's International 1st test match between South Africa and Spain at Emirates Airline Park on August 13, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

After the seeds were planted and watered over the years, 2022 seems to be a watershed moment for the Springbok women. Up next for the determined side is the World Cup, in just over a month.

The Springbok women showed no let-up when they brushed aside Spain to clinch a two-match series against the Europeans.

South Africa scored 23 unanswered points in the second half to beat the Spaniards 37-14 after trailing 14-10 at the break at the Fanie du Toit Stadium in Potchefstroom on Friday, 19 August.

The Stanley Raubenheimer-coached side have now won five of their past six games, with a close defeat to Japan in Kamaishi last month the lone blip on what is proving to be a landmark year for the Springboks.

With that, the South Africans are climbing the World Rugby rankings, leapfrogging Japan following a one-all series draw before beating Spain. The Boks are now in 12th spot and if they can maintain their trajectory they will crack the top 10 soon.

“It is great to move in the right direction when it comes to world ranking, but we did not start this journey four years ago with that in mind,” said Raubenheimer, who has been at the helm since 2018.

“We needed to get a team ready and competitive to play on the biggest stage – the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. And I am pleased with where we are after today’s match, our last in that whole journey.”

Changing fortunes

Raubenheimer and his charges have been heavily helped by a pro-active SA Rugby, which appointed former Irish star player Lynne Cantwell as high performance manager for women’s rugby in early 2021.

Since then, with South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, also chipping in with wisdom and expertise when required, the Bok women’s fortunes have changed significantly.  

At the tail end of 2021, the South Africans embarked on a short tour of Europe where they played the likes of France and Wales and trained with the England team. With these experiences, as well as a well-structured and competitive domestic league, they are reaping rewards.

Bok women out to inflict more pain on Spain and clinch Test series

“There has been a lot of work and planning done to get everything in place for the World Cup. We used almost 60 players over the four years and managed to end up with a squad at this camp that will be pretty close to the one going to New Zealand,” said Raubenheimer.  

“We wanted a settled squad to travel there and I think we managed to get pretty close to that. We finished the Spain camp with 34 players, with 32 allowed to go to the World Cup.”

Of course, compared with the likes of England and France – with whom the Boks are grouped in the World Cup (which kicks off in October) – the South Africans are still a work in progress.

This was evident from an assessment of her team’s performance by the captain for the final clash against Spain, Babalwa Latsha.

Springbok women upbeat after a week of milestones, with eyes on the biggest prize

“We conceded too many penalties, rushed on attack, and that resulted in us losing a bit of structure,” stated the prop. “Once we rectified that and stuck to our processes, the results came, and that will give us peace of mind come 8 October and that opening game of the Rugby World Cup against France.”

Being the underdogs going into tough World Cup ties will serve the Boks well, having nothing to lose compared with their opponents – except perhaps for Fiji, who are also in their group. 

They will hope to be underestimated and then spring a surprise or two, while ensuring they continue the upward trajectory of the past year. Of course, on that stage there will be little room for error.

For now, though, they will bask in the glory of a job well done after sending Spain home in pain and with egos bruised. DM

Gallery

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