Photo courtesy of Springbok Women.
The Springbok Women’s team are deep into their preparations for the World Cup, which will kick off in New Zealand in October this year, after having to be postponed due to COVID-19. After a fantastic run of form at the Rugby Africa Women's Cup, where they racked up huge scores against Zimbabwe (108-0) and Namibia (128-3), the women’s team set off for slightly more challenging horizons, and took on Japan in the first of two Tests in the Taiyo-Seimei Japan Rugby Challenge Series on Sunday, 24 July.
Japan, who are ranked 12th in the world, versus the Springbok Women’s 13th, were also coming off a run of fine form, having recently beaten Australia and Fiji, and a tough contest was anticipated for this first match up between the two teams. The South Africans led 5-6 at half time, with all the points coming off the boot of the talented flyhalf Libbie Janse van Rensburg, and looked to be creating some good opportunities. However, failure to capitalise on those opportunities, and perhaps a touch of nerves or inexperience, saw the game sneak away from them in the final quarter, with Japan ultimately winning 15-6. The competitive Japan Women’s team shunned a few opportunities to kick for points, determined that they would get their win through tries, and it was impressive to see the South African defence hold them off successfully for so long. They will definitely take some positives from the game, along with the lessons learned.
The teams will meet up again on Saturday, 30 July, hopefully offering the Springbok Women an opportunity to draw the series. More importantly, they are getting valuable preparation time for what promises to be a tough World Cup, where they share a pool with England and France, who rank first and third in the world currently, as well as Fiji. Before that, they will also have the opportunity to take on Spain at home in South Africa, giving them further opportunity to hone their skills against strong competition. In an exciting development, their first clash against Spain has been set as the curtain raiser for the Springboks v All Blacks game at Ellis Park on 13 August, a welcome opportunity to showcase the women’s game to a wider audience. Let’s hope supporters make the effort to get there early and support our women’s team as fervently as we would support the men.