Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Denver Wannies on Thursday named an experienced squad for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow on June 29 and 30 in the hope of improving on their 2009 World Cup semifinal appearance.
The squad features seven players who participated in the 2009 spectacle in Dubai in inspirational captain Mandisa Williams, Natasha Hofmeester, Yolanda Meiring, Zenay Jordaan, Lorinda Brown, Phumeza Gadu and Nomathamsanqa Faleni.
This World Cup, however, will be the first for Banele Makwezela, Mathrin Simmers, Veroeshka Grain and Nomaphelo Mayongo. Vuyolwethu Vazi and Sinazo Nobele were named as non-travelling reserves.
“This is certainly the best available squad,” said Wannies. “We would have liked to have Nosiphiwo Goda in the squad, but she was ruled out due to injury, which opened the door for Lorinda Brown to make a comeback.
“However, given Lorinda’s experience, I don’t think anyone will get around her. Fortunately it was fairly simple to select the squad especially following our decision last year to distinguish between Sevens and 15-a-side players, so I am satisfied that these players understand the sport, while we also have sufficient leadership and experience in the group for the team to perform well.”
Hofmeester returned from the last World Cup as one of the top try-scorers after scoring four times, which also placed her on the list of top point-scorers in the tournament, while Meiring featured on the list of top goal-kickers.
For Williams and Meiring, in particular, their selection marks significant milestones in what have been fantastic careers as they will both feature in their fourth World Cup across the Sevens and 15-a-side code.
Brown’s selection is also significant as her last appearance for the national team was in the 15s code in the 2010 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Wannies said he was also pleased with the team’s preparation following the introduction of the in-house high-performance programme in Port Elizabeth where some of the women have been based for the last few months, enabling them to train optimally in the lead-up to the World Cup.
“Everyone has worked hard to reach this point, and what was particularly impressive was that some of the ladies chose to adapt to a new lifestyle in Port Elizabeth as part of our in-house programme to achieve this.
“In terms of our game, our breakdowns and defence let us down in the last two tournaments, and we have worked particularly hard on those areas, so hopefully we will be more competitive in those departments in Moscow.”
While Wannies was careful about placing extra pressure on his team by setting unreasonable goals, he hoped they would be able to emulate their performance in 2009 or go a step further by winning the tournament.
“We are not aiming for anything less than a semifinal berth, but there is a sense of confidence in the team that they can win it, and that is fantastic to see,” said the coach.
“Our plan, however, is to take each match in our stride, make sure we do the basics right and execute our game plan well, and the rest should take care of itself.”
The Springbok Women will face Ireland, China and defending champions Australia on the opening day’s play on June 29.
Springbok Women’s Sevens World Cup squad:
Lorinda Brown (Eastern Province)
Nomathamsanqa Faleni (Eastern Province)
Phumeza Gadu (Eastern Province)
Veroeshka Grain (Western Province)
Natasha Hofmeester (Western Province)
Zenay Jordaan (Eastern Province)
Benele Makwezela (Western Province)
Nomaphelo Mayongo (Kwa-Zulu Natal)
Yolanda Meiring (Blue Bulls)
Fundiswa Plaatjie (Border)
Mathrin Simmers (SWD)
Mandisa Williams (Border)
Vuyolwethu Vazi (Blue Bulls)
Sinazo Nobele (Border)
Denver Wannies – Coach
Tanushree Pillay – Physiotherapist
Orna Prinsloo – Team Manager
Denzil van Heerden – Fitness Coach
Lehlogonolo Mampane – Team Doctor
Renfred Dazel – Technical Analyst