CAPE TOWN – Newly-appointed Springbok Women's Sevens coach Paul Delport has named Zintle Mpupha to captain the team for the Super7s tournament in Brisbane, Australia next weekend.
Former Blitzbok captain Delport, who took over from Renfred Dazel at the beginning of the year, called on Mpupha to lead his first squad for this invitational tournament, which also doubles up as a warm-up tournament for the Commonwealth Games in Australia’s Gold Coast in April. She takes over the captaincy from Veroeshka Grain.
“I like the calmness and leadership shown by Zintle – she is a very good communicator and will do well in her new role,” said Delport, who made three changes to the squad that last played in December at the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series event in Dubai.
Stalwart Marithy Pienaar injured a hamstring in training this week and has been ruled out of the trip, while Phumeza Gadu and Jacqueline Kriel are not involved with the squad anymore.
They are replaced by Rights Mkhari, Zenay Jordaan and Zinthle Ndawonde for the tournament on 3-4 February at the Sci-Fleet Stadium in Toowing. Australia, France, France Development, Poland, Sweden, USA, Spain, England, Japan, Fiji and Wales are the other teams at the Brisbane tournament.
Mkhari, Jordaan and Ndawonde have all played for South Africa before and were part of the squad that won the Rugby Africa Sevens title in September in Tunisia, where they qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July.
“This is a very important tournament for us and I am pleased with the preparation and the final squad,” said Delport.
“All the players in our squad have played at this level before and are well aware of the demands and standards we will encounter in Australia. We are facing some top class opposition next weekend and with the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, this will be a very good opportunity for us to test our systems and teamwork in similar conditions.
“A number of the teams are playing in the HSBC Sydney Sevens Women's tournament this weekend, which will be to their advantage come next weekend, but we are not travelling all the way to Australia just for the fun of it. We have some clear goals we want to achieve.”
Mpupha, who also played cricket for South Africa at Under-19 level, hails from Border and is expected to give direction, not only as a captain, but also as playmaker and flyhalf. The Alice-born player made her debut for the side in the 2012/13 season at the Amsterdam Sevens, but decided to complete her degree in Human Movement Sciences from the University of Fort Hare first before re-joining the national squad full time.
“It is a huge honour to play for this team and to be named captain is even more special,” said Mpupha, who turned 24 on Christmas Day last year.
“We have massive challenges facing us this year. We need to try to qualify for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, and will play in the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments, so every opportunity to prepare for those must be grabbed with both hands. This tournament in Brisbane is such an opportunity.”
The squad departs from Cape Town on Saturday.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens squad:
Unathi Mali, Megan Comley, Rights Mkhari, Christelene Steinhobel, Zinhle Ndawonde, Mathrin Simmers, Chane Stadler, Eloise Webb, Zintle Mpupha (captain), Veroeshka Grain, Nadine Roos, Zenay Jordaan.
African News Agency (ANA)