Johannesburg - One could argue fairly that 2022, when looked back upon by future generations, could be the watershed year when South African women’s rugby finally built a strong foundation on which to erect its legacy.
Spear-headed by SA Rugby’s high performance manager for women, Lynne Cantwell, the women’s game – with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus in the wings – finally seems to have a roadmap, purpose and objective. On Thursday, Cantwell gave an update on where the national teams – the Sevens and the XVs - are currently as they both prepare for showpiece events in the coming months.
“Preparations are going really, really well,” said Cantwell.
“The XVs go into camp for two Tests for the Africa Cup in June, two against Japan in July and two at home against Spain in August. We think having those six Tests will be a really good run-in for the XVs World Cup,” Cantwell said, adding that a group of 32 players, who remain unnamed, are already in camp.
“It is similar for the Sevens. We’ve got a couple of competitions coming up (including the Commonwealth Games and Sevens World Cup in Cape Town). We are trying to get as many games as possible.”
Cantwell’s positivity can certainly be justified. After years of being an inconspicuous sector of rugby in the country, SA Rugby are now going at full pace in an effort to develop and uplift the women’s game.
On Thursday, they received a massive shot in that department when they announced a partnership with Betway, who will help drive that goal with their Next Phase campaign.
The initiative hopes to upskill and develop interest in the coaching stock in the women’s game over the next three years.
“That was a really important piece,” Cantwell explained about the monies that will now be applied to the endeavour, although it will at the moment remain a semi-professional exercise.
“We knew that in order to attract experienced coaches into the women’s game, there needed to be funding involved ... ”
“What we expect to see is the standard of the women’s game to accelerate and we expect to see more experienced rugby people being attracted to the women’s game to offer their expertise.”
Shifting her focus exclusively to the senior national women’s team, who will be playing in the World Cup in New Zealand October, Cantwell revealed that although time is short, the management team – headed by coach Stanley Raubenheimer – were hard at work.
🗣️"Our aim is to focus on coach education and coach experience in the women's game, which will drive standards in the next 5 years" - @cantwelll#TogetherMovingForward @WomenBoks #BetwayNextPhase pic.twitter.com/ZK8G8poQ0B— Betway ZA (@Betway_za) May 26, 2022
“The things that we are really trying to focus on are lots of the technical and tactical stuff that we take for granted that the girls know,” Cantwell said.
“The girls have had four forwards camps with Daan Human and Deon Davids (the Bok men’s line-out and scrum coach) and they have literally just been hammering it at the scrums and line-outs. Braam van Straaten has come in from a kicking point of view, so that we can just get a better understanding of where we want to play on the pitch to score points.
“What we noticed in our November tour, is that we were really attritional and were really fronting up in our carries and in our tackles; and we were really causing problems for the bigger teams… We need to make sure they are strong and make that a part of our core game plan.”
🗣️"The project aims to elevate coaching in women's rugby and this is just what women's rugby needs" - Jacques Nienaber - Head Coach of the @Springboks#TogetherMovingForward @WomenBoks #BetwayNextPhase pic.twitter.com/9abUjcdOh6— Betway ZA (@Betway_za) May 26, 2022
Laurian Johannes-Haupt of Western Province, who is one of the first seven coaches who will benefit from the Next Phase campaign, and who is working with the Springbok women’s team as a breakdown coach, shared Cantwell’s sentiment.
“It is going well,” JohannesHaupt said.
“We have met really good opposition, so we know what to expect. It is not going to be easy and we will have to step it up another few gears but the girls are positive and optimistic, and are working hard.”
For details of SA Rugby’s new partnership with Betway and the Next Phase campaign, scan the QR code to visit www.iol.co.za/sport