Springbok Women’s coach Lawrence Sephaka on Wednesday named seven uncapped players in his squad of 26 to travel to England and France from June 25 to July 5 for their warm-up tour ahead of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup.
The team’s participation in this tour has been made possible by a R2,3m grant from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.
The Springbok Women will play two matches against the Nomads in London on June 28 and July 1 respectively, and then travel to France to face the World Cup hosts and pool contenders on July 4 in an official Test in Marcoussis, where the round-robin stages of the World Cup will be hosted.
Blue Bulls back Cindy Cant and her versatile team-mate Shona-Leah Weston, Western Province flank Celeste Adonis, and Border fullback Siviwe Basweni will represent South Africa for the first time on tour, while Springbok Women Sevens players Rachelle Geldenhuys, Benele Makwezela, Nosiphiwo Goda will make their first appearance for the Springbok Women’s 15-a-side team.
All of these players with the exception of Cant were included in the preliminary World Cup squad named in March, while they all participated in the Springbok Women’s XV matches against the Women’s Interprovincial XV last month.
Two players, Springbok Women’s Sevens back Marithy Pienaar (knee) and centre Ziyanda Tywaleni (hamstring), were not considered for the tour due to injury.
“It was extremely tough to select only 26 players for this tour,” said Sephaka. “There are a handful of players who were unlucky not to secure places in the squad. But we are pleased with the group we have selected and I hope they give a good account of themselves in London and France.
“Some of these players have never played international rugby before and this tour will serve as a fantastic opportunity for them to experience the thrills and the challenges of playing at the highest level before the World Cup,” said Sephaka.
“The women who have played Sevens rugby at international level will have an idea about what to expect, but since this is a different code, this experience will be beneficial. Ultimately, however, the whole squad has to approach this tour with the same attitude required at the World Cup, as we will face tough teams in an environment and conditions they are familiar with.”
Nine players in the squad boast World Cup experience, with a few of them including No8 and captain Mandisa Williams, scrumhalf Fundiswa Plaatjie and flank Lamla Momoti having featured in the 2006 and 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments.
This experience Sephaka believed would be vital to calm the nerves in the team and to prepare the side for the challenges ahead in the next few months.
Meanwhile, the 26-member Springbok Women’s Rugby World Cup squad will be announced on Tuesday.
Springbok Women’s squad for WRWC warm-up tour (alphabetical order):
Celeste Adonis (Western Province), Siviwe Basweni (Border), Nolusindiso Booi (Border), Lorinda Brown (Eastern Province), Cindy Cant (Blue Bulls), Nomathamsanqa Faleni (Eastern Province), Phumeza Gadu (Eastern Province), Rachelle Geldenhuys (Falcons), Nosiphiwo Goda (Border), Veroeshka Grain (Western Province), Portia Jonga (Eastern Province), Zenay Jordaan (Border), Tayla Kinsey (KwaZulu-Natal), Cebisa Kula (Eastern Province), Thantaswa Macingwana (Border), Benele Makwezela (Western Province), Andrea Mentoor (Western Province), Lamla Momoti (Border), Nwabisa Ngxatu (Border), Zandile Nojoko (Eastern Province), Asithandile Ntoyanto (Border), Fundiswa Plaatjie (Border), Vuyolwethu Vazi (Blue Bulls), Denita Wentzel (Western Province), Shona-Leah Weston (Blue Bulls), Mandisa Williams – Captain (Border).