Familiar feel to Springbok women team for Rugby World Cup opener

Familiar feel to Springbok women team for Rugby World Cup opener
Experienced Springbok prop Babalwa Latsha (with ball) was named in the RWC team of the weekend after her incredible 80-minute shift against France last weekend. (Photo: Richard Huggard / Gallo Images)

The Springbok women have announced their squad to face France in their opening Rugby World Cup fixture on Saturday. Coach Stanley Raubenheimer has gone with a tried-and-tested side, with only prop Sanelisiwe Charlie not a regular starter this season.

Lock Nolusindiso Booi will captain the side in her third appearance at a Rugby World Cup (RWC) when she runs out at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday morning.

Veteran flyhalf Zenay Jordaan, who will also play in her third RWC, is named on the bench for the Bok women.

Instead Raubenheimer has elected to go with sharp-shooter Libbie Janse van Rensburg in the No 10 jersey.

Both playmakers have the opportunity to make history on Saturday by becoming the first Springbok women player to score 100 points for South Africa. Jordaan is on 98 while Janse van Rensburg is on 96.

The relatively inexperienced Janse van Rensburg will be partnered at halfback by Tayla Kinsey who has RWC experience from 2014 in Ireland.

Outside back Eloise Webb is the only player selected who saw no action in the Boks’ four Tests against Japan and Spain in 2022 as she was out injured. She will play off the bench against France.

Libbie Janse van Rensburg (with ball) will start at flyhalf for the Springboks against France in their RWC opener on Saturday. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

“I had a pretty good idea of what my starting team was going to look like for a while now, and I told the players before we departed South Africa what everyone’s role will be in this match,” said Raubenheimer.

“It is pleasing to know that the planning was spot-on in terms of the preparation of this squad, and I have to give credit to my medical and management staff for making sure we could select the team best suited to take on France.”

Uphill battle

The Bok women are under no illusions about the challenge they face against World Cup contenders France. France beat them 46-3 in November 2021, in France, before defeating world champions New Zealand 38-13 a week later.

“We went to play France last year to experience the intensity they play with first-hand, and it was an important first step in getting us ready for this match,” said the coach.

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“We are now ready to deliver a result that will make the group, but also the country, proud. They are one of tournament favourites, and rightly so, but that is not an issue for us. We have a plan, we have the players. The trick is now to make sure both work in harmony.”

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The Springbok women and France have faced off on four occasions previously, with Les Bleus beating South Africa by at least 40 points three times. The Boks’ best result is a 17-all draw back in 2009.

‘Strong set piece’

The only new face in the starting line-up for the Bok women’s opening encounter is loosehead prop Charlie, who will make her first start for the team since August 2021 when she debuted against Kenya in Stellenbosch.

“Sanelisiwe is such a player, and I am expecting her to make a significant impact on Saturday. I am sure she will make the most of this opportunity,” said Raubenheimer about Charlie.

Her prop partner, Babalwa Latsha, will make her first RWC appearance after 17 Test matches.

Springbok women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer says the team’s planning has been “spot on”. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

“We have been working towards this match for months now – 8 October was a clear marker in our diaries, and we are all ready to confront France and the world order on Saturday,” said Latsha.

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“We respect our opponents, but this game is about us and how we deliver on match day. We know a strong set piece will make things much easier for our dangerous backline, so we will target that. It is also going to be about the small things and to cut out silly mistakes as France will punish you if that happens.”

Latsha added that they will not be overawed by the stadium, the crowd or their opponents: “It is huge for us, of course, what an honour to play the opening game. We cannot allow that to dictate our mindset though. We have a job to do and prepared well to do that to the best of our ability. Everybody back home will be watching; we cannot disappoint them.” DM

The opening encounter kicks off at 3.15am SAST.

The Springbok women team to face France in Auckland:

  1. Nadine Roos 14. Nomawethu Mabenge 13. Zintle Mpupha 12. Aphiwe Ngwevu 11. Simamkele Namba 10. Libbie Janse van Rensburg 9. Tayla Kinsey 8. Aseza Hele 7. Sinazo Mcatshulwa 6. Sizophila Solontsi 5. Rights Mkhari 4. Nolusindiso Booi 3. Babalwa Latsha 2. Lindelwa Gwala 1. Sanelisiwe Charlie.

Reserves: 16. Roseline Botes 17. Asithandile Ntoyanto 18. Monica Mazibukwana 19. Catha Jacobs 20. Lusanda Dumke 21. Unam Tose 22. Zenay Jordaan 23. Eloise Webb.


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