The Springbok Women's team celebrated their first match on South African soil in four years with a comprehensive 28-17 victory over a star-studded Nomads international invitation side at Goodwood Rugby Club in Cape Town on Saturday.
Tries from four of their most experience players – wings Phumeza Gadu and Natasha Hofmeester, flyhalf Zandile Nojoko and veteran lock Dolly Mavumengwana – and eight more points from the boot of Nojoko ensured that the Springbok Women grabbed an unassailable 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
During their last tour of South Africa in 2008, the tourists, whose current squad are drawn from New Zealand, Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland and Sweden, beat the Springbok Women 40-34 and 29-0 in a similar two-match series.
Head coach Denver Wannies said he was satisfied with the way the squad, which included five uncapped players and which had to do without the services of regular skipper Mandisa Williams and veteran Zenay Jordaan, kicked off the series. “The players really wanted to make a statement and they did so,” said Wannies. “The team are aware of the perception out there that women should not be playing rugby, and that it's all just a waste of time and money.
“They wanted to show that they are worthy of being called Springboks, and worthy of playing at the highest level. There was also a score to settle after losing to the Nomads the last time they were here.”
Wannies praised the performances of Nojoko and fullback Yolanda Meiring, who was called out of retirement to stand in the last line of defence. “With the likes of Mandisa and Zenay out injured, the rest of the players really stepped up and met the requirements,” he said. “We have already spoken about not being complacent for the second match and want to make a clean sweep, especially at Goodwood where there is such a strong women's player base and support for women's rugby.”
The second and final match in the series takes place at Goodwood Rugby Club on Saturday at 14h00, and will once again be preceded by curtain-raisers starting at 11h15 and featuring women's teams from Maties, Busy Bee, Blue Jet, United Brothers, UWC, Khayelitsha and Tygerberg. Entrance is free.
The Nomads will also play a midweek match against DHL Western Province at Langa Stadium on Tuesday, kicking off at 18h30.