Boks out to outfox Fiji in crunch World Cup clash

Boks out to outfox Fiji in crunch World Cup clash
Nadine Roos (left), middle Zintle Mpupha, right (with ball) Libbie Janse van Rensburg, attack Spain's defence during a Test at Ellis Park. (Photo: Supplied by Saru)

A Springboks women’s side unchanged from their opening Rugby World Cup 2021 loss to France is eyeing a potentially campaign-defining win against Fiji on Sunday.

The Springbok women have made massive progress in their development over the last year or so. The litmus test for the strides they have made will come against Fiji, who are one of the lowest-ranked sides at the Rugby World Cup 2021.

For the South Africans, the equation is simple: win and win convincingly in order to stand a greater chance of qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.

South Africa are currently 11th in the World Rugby women’s rankings, while Fiji are 21st, so the former will be targeting this game for a positive result in a tough group. The clash marks the first time the two teams have tussled.

However, with the favourites tag comes immense pressure. Fiji will not be a walkover either. 

In spite of an 84-19 drubbing at the hands of tournament favourites England last time out, the Pacific islanders scored some cracking tries. Demonstrating that, when they get their offloading game going, they can hurt even the best of teams.

Zenay Jordaan of South Africa

Celine Ferer of France tries to tackle Zenay Jordaan of South Africa during the Pool C Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between South Africa and France at Eden Park on 8 October 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: Greg Bowker / Getty Images)

The South Africans are wary of this threat posed by the underdogs in the tie.

“They don’t play with much structure; they love to play the situation and what is in front of them. That makes them unpredictable and hard to analyse,” said Bok scrumhalf Rumandi Potgieter.

Nonetheless, if the Boks can stick to their strengths and execute their game plan — while eliminating some of the mistakes made against France in their previous encounter — they should see the Fijians off comfortably.

Tried and tested

Springbok women coach Stanley Raubenheimer has retained his starting 15 for the clash and made only one change to the replacements.

Western Province lock Nolusindiso Booi will skipper the team once more, while Springbok women’s Sevens forward Lerato Makua has been named on the bench, where she replaces Catha Jacobs, who played against France at Eden Park on Saturday.

Makua recently played for South Africa at Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town and could add to her five 15s Test caps to date.

Raubenheimer expressed his confidence in the squad and said although the names on the teamsheet are the same, their outlook will be different.

“Everyone came out of the French opener unscathed, which was really good news for us as it meant we could go with the same group again against Fiji,” said Raubenheimer. “The players have now experienced the intensity of this Rugby World Cup and showed that they are improving with every Test.”

The South Africans had the privilege of playing the opening match of the global showpiece versus Les Bleues. The Boks’ coach suggested that against the Europeans, some players had fallen victim to the immense nature of the occasion.

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Nonetheless, Raubenheimer is hoping that those butterflies have been expunged and all players are ready to show just how great they can be, backed by the continuity in his selection.  

“We had a slow start due to all the nervous energy. We hope that this time, the same team will be calmer and more focused in those opening minutes. If we had selected a bunch of new players, they would not have been as settled as this group is now.”

On the exclusion of Jacobs for Makua, Raubenheimer said:

“We are hoping to tire Fiji out in the first hour and then attack with players such as Lerato, Lusanda Dumke, Roseline Botes and Zenay Jordaan coming on. Catha has done nothing wrong, but she is a more physical player. So, we opted for Lerato, who is faster, more mobile and better suited to our plan in the second half.” 

Sharks loose forward Sizophila Solontsi will be seen all around the contact areas, ready to rush into combat and make bruising hits, time after time.

The impact of a Solontsi hit normally has consequences, especially for opposing flyhalves, and that was no different against France last weekend.

According to popular social media analyst Squidge Rugby, Solontsi’ s hit on French flyhalf Caroline Drouin was so effective, it threw the French out of shape for close to an hour after that, incidentally the same time Les Bleus could not score a point against South Africa before running out 40-5 winners.

Fiji clash can be the tonic for Springbok Women's World Cup Bleues

Romane Ménager of France makes a break during the Pool C Rugby World Cup 2021 New Zealand match between South Africa and France at Eden Park on 8 October 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: Phil Walter / Getty Images)

“It is a physical game and I love that part of the game,” said Solontsi with a big smile.

“I am trying to intimate the opposing flyhalf as most of the time, they are in charge of game management and tactics. If you disrupt them, they will be less efficient. So, I always try to get to them early in the game to remind them that I will be around for the rest of the match.”

Last Saturday though, the flanker was shown a yellow card for a high tackle after 30 minutes, which she knows cannot happen against Fiji.

“That was unfortunate as there was a head clash with another player, but the protocols are clear, so I am not complaining,” she said.

“Discipline will be key against Fiji, not only in executing hits, but also other stuff like getting off the floor quickly and back into position, keeping your defensive alignment and sticking to the process.”

The encounter will be played on Sunday, 16 October. Kickoff is at 6:45am SA time. DM

The Springbok women team to face Fiji in Auckland:

15. 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. Lerato Makua 20. Lusanda Dumke 21. Unam Tose 22. Zenay Jordaan 23. Eloise Webb.


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