CAPE TOWN – Zintle Mpupha will lead an exciting group of 12 players selected by Springbok Women's Sevens coach Paul Delport to San Francisco, USA, where they will contest the third edition of the Rugby World Cup Women's Sevens tournament on 20-22 July.
Delport included four uncapped players alongside the experienced duo of Zenay Jordaan and Mathrin Simmers for this showpiece event.
Jordaan was named in a play-making role for the tournament to be played at AT&T Stadium, resulting in the dual-coded international to attend her third Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament, a record for a Springbok Women's Sevens player. She also played at two Rugby World Cups in fifteens for her country.
Simmers, who represented the Springbok Women's Sevens at the 2013 tournament in Moscow, will add some experience to a team laden with the best South Africa has to offer on the women's rugby front. Jordaan and Simmers are the only players who have Rugby World Cup Sevens experience, while the rest of the squad will make their debut at this level.
Mpupha, a former provincial cricketer, was handed the captaincy earlier this year by Delport and led the team with distinction at tournaments in Brisbane and Hong Kong, as well as the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April, the last competitive outing for the side.
Since then, Delport drafted in some exciting prospects and after a number of training camps and match practice against the Ugandan men's team and the SA Students Women’s Sevens team, the coach decided to include newcomers Buhle Sonomzi, Babalwa Latsha, Snenhlanhla Shozi and Kimico Manuel for the trip to the USA.
Sonomzi hails from Eastern Province, where she also earned provincial colours in athletics and netball, while Shozi represented South Africa in soccer at age grade level. Latsha excelled in fifteens, where she gained national colours already, while Manuel has played for South Africa at the Youth Olympics Sevens.
The four debutants will join eight players from the Commonwealth Games squad to complete the line-up that will play their opening match against Russia on Friday 20 July. This group includes former SA Women's Sevens Player of the Year, Marithy Pienaar and leading try-scorer in recent seasons, Nadine Roos.
“This is the best squad we could pick,” Delport said. “We had some injuries following the Commonwealth Games, but realised that we needed to expand our search for players who could add value to our programme. The four new players all tick boxes in areas where we were found lacking in the past and I am confident that they will add to our ability as a squad.
“There will be little sense in counting our chickens before they hatched, but I am quietly confident in the potential of this squad. We take on a highly regarded and capable team in women's sevens, but the one thing we are not going to do is to accept any result without us having a say in that.
“We are not the favorites against Russia and accept the underdog tag. We can only ask to be judged on our effort next Friday and I believe I have a group that will leave nothing out there on the field,” Delport added.
Mpupha said of the squad: “We are all massively excited. Zenay and Mathrin as just as keen as the other 10 players to deliver at AT&T Park and make South Africa proud, so I know effort will not be lacking. We will bring heart and passion to the South African cause. This is such a great moment for all of us.”
The Springbok Women's Sevens team:
1. Marithy Pienaar
2. Christelene Steinhobel
3. Buhle Sonomzi
4. Babalwa Latsha
5. Zinhle Ndawonde
6. Mathrin Simmers
7. Zenay Jordaan
8. Zintle Mpupha (captain)
9. Eloise Webb
10. Nadine Roos
11. Snenhlanhla Shozi
12. Kimico Manuel