Improved SA Women’s squad returns from Nations Cup
August 16, 2011
The SA Women’s rugby team returned home today after achieving another breakthrough during the 2011 Nations Cup tournament in Ontario, Canada.

Mandisa Williams and her team were edged into fourth place by the USA on points difference, but the South Africans can look back at a huge improvement on performances in previous tournaments. The team managed a first win at the competition after they came back from behind to surprise the much more experienced and higher ranked USA team 26-23, although the United States took revenge by turning the tables 29-9 in their play-off match for third place.

They lost their two other pool matches against England and Canada as well as the third place play-off against the USA.

However, head coach Denver Wannies said he was satisfied with the much improved performances by his charges. The SA Women won two series’ last year and also registered their first win at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in England last August. The Nations Cup was his team’s first competitive outings since the end of the WRWC a year ago.

“In my opinion, we performed well in a number of areas of our game. We are certainly more experienced nowadays and I felt our players were really competitive against a strong England (tournament winners) and also the USA.

“I was very happy with our scrums - we managed a heel against the head in each of the four games and to do something like that against England was really special. We used the scrums as a good platform to attack from and our backs got themselves into good positions, especially in the first match against the USA, which we won. The veteran prop Cebisa Kula was our outstanding player of the tournament,” explained Wannies.

The lineout was one area of concern last year, but the team managed to secure their own ball and even managed to steal a couple of their opponents’ throw-ins. Wannies attributes this to the improved performance of Cindy Booi and the more accurate throw-ins of Pulane Motloung, who the team converted to hooker after she played flank last year.

Furthermore, the team suffered an early blow when livewire flyhalf Zenay Jordaan was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury against Canada, with regular fullback Zandile Nojoko taking over the pivot duties. “Losing Zenay was a huge blow. She is slightly built but very good in defence and we missed her. However, we had the change to try someone else in that role and that was at least a plus point, “ said Wannies.

“The four matches gave us enough opportunities to blood some newcomers, Janine Felix (wing), Denita Wentzel (prop), Lusanda Mtiya (wing) and Nwabisa Ngxatu (flank). They were thrown into the deep at times but I am sure they will benefit greatly from this experience. Felix is quick and versatile and she was our best young player, scoring two thrilling tries against the USA to clinch a memorable victory for us,” added the coach.

The players will now return to their respective provinces to compete in the domestic Women’s Inter-Provincial championship.