South Africa coach Lawrence Sephaka continues his column for rwcwomens.com with a look ahead to Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France and explains why it is important for the Women’s Springboks to leave their mark on the showpiece tournament.
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I am one of the lucky few that has had the honour of representing my country at the highest lever and on the world stage, and it will remain one of the highlights of my career.
One thing I learned from my experience at a World Cup, however, is that there might be likely winners at the tournament, but no-one is guaranteed to win until the final whistle goes. Every country is usually well-prepared for a World Cup and they all have a burning desire to win, so there are no easy games.
I believe it is definitely important for a coach to have experienced a World Cup themselves because it gives the players a sense of confidence that you know what you are talking about.
The fact that they know you have been in their shoes and have experienced the trials and tribulations of participating in a World Cup first-hand gives credibility to the messages you try to get across to them, so hopefully they will take the lessons I have learned and use it in their mission of success.
I guess some of the experienced players in our squad will share their World Cup experiences with the younger women. But they will not forget to remind them of the sacrifices associated with representing one’s country in a World Cup and what it takes to be successful at the highest level.
In the last two World Cups we have not performed as well as we would have liked to, and every World Cup is different, so everyone will learn from this experience, even the senior players in our squad.
It is very important for us to perform well in France, especially since one of our focuses is to grow the Game in South Africa in the future.
Ready to rise to the challenge
If we perform well, we would not only make the country proud by being good ambassadors for the brand, it would also boost the awareness of women’s rugby in our country and hopefully encourage more ladies to play rugby.
The fact that Sevens rugby has been included in the Olympic Games from 2016 presents another fantastic opportunity for women who participate in the sport to experience something special. But I believe a good showing at the Women’s Rugby World Cup will be vital in boosting this interest.
I have been privileged to see how some of these girls have developed in terms of their skills and their quality of play, and I have faith in them as players and their abilities. I believe we are blessed with some of the most gifted rugby players and hopefully we will be able to increase this pool of players going forward.
I can assure you that we are going to the World Cup with a group of athletes who are success-hungry and who are determined to win the competition, rather than to merely compete.
We have placed a big emphasis on conditioning in the next few months in order to get the women into the best possible shape for the World Cup. So, in essence, over the coming months I would like to see the women become faster, fitter, stronger and improve their skills.
If we can achieve that, the groundwork would have been laid for a strong campaign.
Having said that, it is undoubtedly a tough pool we will face with France, Australia and Wales. It is particularly important to note that France has done very well in this year’s Women’s Six Nations and they will have a point to prove in front of their home crowd. There is certainly a big task awaiting us in France.