Springbok Women’s coach Lawrence Sephaka on Tuesday named 11 players with World Cup experience in his 26-member squad for the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in France from August 1 to 17. The team’s participation in the tournament has been made possible by a R2,3m grant from the National Lotto Distribution Trust Fund.
The squad will be led by experienced captain and No 8 Mandisa Williams, who guided the team in the 2010 showpiece in the UK as well as the 2013 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
Four of the eleven players with World Cup experience featured in both the 2006 and 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments in Canada and England respectively. They are Williams, flank Lamla Momoti, prop Cebisa Kula and scrumhalf Fundiswa Plaatjie.
The other World Cup survivors are prop Portia Jonga, locks Nomathamsanqa Faleni and Nolusindiso Booi, flyhalf Zenay Jordaan, wing Phumeza Gadu and centres Ziyanda Tywaleni and Lorinda Brown.
Another two players in the squad, wing Veroeshka Grain and centre Benele Makwezela, boast Rugby World Cup Sevens experience as they were members of the squad that travelled to Russia last year.
This group of players will form the core of the squad, as their experience will be vital given the challenging pool South Africa have been drawn in with Australia, World Cup hosts France, and Wales.
The squad has a split of 14 forwards and 12 backs, while Border and Eastern Province account for the most players in the squad, with ten from Border and six from Eastern Province.
“These players have worked very hard and have made many sacrifices in the last few months to work their way into contention for places in the World Cup squad, and their selection is just reward for those efforts,” said Sephaka.
“Our main selection criteria were consistency in performances this season and to select players with the best skills and technique, and I believe we achieved that with this group of players.
“That said there is hard work ahead in the next six weeks to ensure that we are at our best when we take to the field in our opening match against Australia on August 1. Although I am pleased with our preparation in the last few months, we need to step it up to a higher level now, and our warm-up tour to London and France in the next few weeks, will allow us to do this.”
SARU CEO Jurie Roux congratulated the players on their selection and encouraged them to give their best at the international spectacle.
“It is a huge honour to represent one’s country, and to do so at a World Cup is a privilege only a select few are afforded, so congratulations to the players,” said Roux.
“The team certainly faces a tough task given the challenging pool they have been drawn in, but we will be behind them all the way with the rest of the country. With women’s rugby being only 10 years old in South Africa we are aware that we cannot expect miracles. However, we would like to see the team improve on their past performances. I wish the team well in their World Cup campaign.”
The Springbok Women finished in 10th place in the 2010 World Cup, with their only victory in the pool stages being against Wales.
All of the players with the exception of centre Ziyanda Tywaleni, centre Marithy Pienaar and scrumhalf Siphosethu Tshingana will assemble in Pretoria on Wednesday for a training camp in Pretoria followed by the warm-up tour to London and France from June 25 to July 5.
The World Cup squad will gather again in Cape Town on July 14 for their World Cup holding camp, and are set to depart for France on July 27 for the tournament.
Springbok Women’s Rugby World Cup squad (alphabetical order):
Forwards: Celeste Adonis (Western Province), Nolusindiso Booi (Border), Nomathamsanqa Faleni (Eastern Province), Rachelle Geldenhuys (Blue Bulls), Portia Jonga (Eastern Province), Cebisa Kula (Eastern Province), Thantaswa Macingwana (Border), Lamla Momoti (Border), Nwabisa Ngxatu (Border), Asithandile Ntoyanto (Border), Vuyolwethu Vazi (Blue Bulls), Denita Wentzel (Western Province), Shona-Leah Weston (Blue Bulls), Mandisa Williams (Border, captain).
Backs: Siviwe Basweni (Border), Lorinda Brown (Eastern Province), Cindy Cant (Blue Bulls), Phumeza Gadu (Eastern Province), Veroeshka Grain (Western Province), Zenay Jordaan (Border), Tayla Kinsey (KwaZulu-Natal), Benele Makwezela (Western Province), Fundiswa Plaatjie (Border), Marithy Pienaar (Blue Bulls), Siphosethu Tshingana (Eastern Province), Ziyanda Tywaleni (Border).
Springbok Women’s Rugby World Cup management team: Lawrence Sephaka (head coach), Renfred Dazel (assistant coach), Heyno Kraft (biokineticist), Tanushree Pillay (physiotherapist), Jerome Mampane (team doctor), Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe-Calata (manager), Zeena Isaacs (media manager).