Ahead of their third appearance at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, South Africa invited Total Rugby behind the scenes to hear about their hopes for the tournament in France.
With a new coaching team in charge and an influx of Sevens talent, South Africa are looking to continue the incremental improvement evident since they first joined the Women's RWC fold in 2006. Then a 36-0 thrashing at the hands of Kazakhstan saw South Africa finish last of the 12 competing nations in Edmonton, while four years ago in England they finished 10th.
Now South Africa have their eyes set on making it out of the pool stages – a tough ask considering they have been drawn against host nation France, the reigning RBS Women’s Six Nations champions who beat them 46-8 in a recent warm up match, Australia and Wales.
“For me it’s about winning all our pool games and getting through to the semi-finals, after that it will all be just a big bonus for us,” said flanker Rachelle Geldenhuys, who will be appearing in her first Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Head coach Lawrence Sephaka, who won 24 caps for the Springboks at prop, added: “It’s a pretty competitive pool that we’re in; it’s going to be up to the team to stand up and be counted and show up on the days that they need to show up on in order for us to move forward. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Geldenhuys is joined in the 26-strong squad by fellow Sevens specialists Benel Makwezela and Nosiphiwo Goda, and the Golden Lions player is confident the three of them can make a mark in France despite an obvious lack of experience in Fifteens.
“With Sevens it’s about stealing ball; it’s making one-on-one tackles; it’s passing left and right, so it’s about bringing those skills into Fifteens,” she said ahead of her competitive bow in the longer format of the Game.
“From travelling and playing around the world with Sevens we've also got plenty of international experience and I think that will help too.”
Coach Sephaka added: “These are intelligent players - they’ve played Fifteens, they move over to Sevens and they come back…what’s different is just the movement of lines but in terms of contact, tackling and running, nothing is different."
The Sevens influence extends to the South Africa Women's coaching team, with former Men’s Sevens player Renfred Dalzel acting as backs coach. The team will be managed by former captain Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe.
“The new management has brought something new to us, everything is exciting and positive,” said back-row forward Lamla Momoti, a veteran of South Africa’s two previous WRWC outings.
Also on Total Rugby TV, we look back on a thrilling CAR Division 1A championship which ended in RWC 2015 qualification for Namibia, Shane Williams discusses his new life in Japan and fellow Welshman Stephen Jones stars in our Rugby World Cup 'Golden Moment' feature as he reflects on his country's epic RWC 2003 quarter-final clash against eventual winners England - all available to view HERE>>