JOHANNESBURG – The South African women's student sevens rugby team will be on a mission to win a medal at the World University Games in Napoli, Italy, with their first game against Belgium on July 5.
Coach Riaan van der Merwe says a good performance from the team will be an excellent way to create awareness for women's sevens rugby.
“I honestly believe that South Africa should be able to field a women' sevens team at the Olympic Games, but at the moment, it is challenging as we don't have enough player-depth in the country.
“For this reason, it is important to give a good showing at the University Games. If we do win a medal, it will be a way to market the sport, especially at universities.
“We all know that our universities form the foundation of South African sport,” explains Van der Merwe who over the last three years has coached the Delta Drone Tuks Women's Rugby 7's to win several international tournaments.
Talking about the match against Belgium, Van der Merwe is relatively confident that his team should win as three weeks ago the Tuks team beat them 35-5 during a tournament in Spain.
According to Van der Merwe, they also should be victorious against Argentina on July 6.
“The Argentinians are very good on the attack but not so on defence. Our biggest challenge is going to be to limit our mistakes and to make sure no scoring opportunity goes to waste.
“Russia is going to be our biggest challenge. I tried to find information on how they play, but there is not a lot available on the internet. I know, however, that Russia does have a well-structured Olympics sevens program in place.
“If we can win two of our pool games it will certainly favour us when it comes to the semi-final.”
Van der Merwe tips Canada as the pre-tournament favourites while France, who won last year's FISU World Cup Tournament, should also qualify for the semi-finals.
He can't help but be excited about the team that has been selected to represent South Africa.
“I have no doubt a front-row consisting of Babalwa Latch, Kemi Baloyi and Rights Mkhari can dominate in any game. If they do there is going to be no stopping the likes of Voice Ndou, Libbie Janse van Rensburg, Nadine Roos and Megan Phillips or Liske Lategan from scoring tries.”
Roos and Mkhari are currently in the Springbok Women's Sevens squad while Lusanda Dumke has played for the Springbok women's team.
Libbie Janse van Rensburg has won numerous player of the tournament awards when representing Tuks at international tournaments.
The South African University team is:
Kemi Baloyi (Tuks), Libbie Janse van Rensburg (Tuks), Megan Phillips (Tuks), Sune Botha (Tuks), Sancha van Niekerk (Tuks), Rights Mkhari (University of Venda), Shania Swart (Tuks), Lusanda Dumke (Fort Hare), Nadine Roos (Tuks), Liske Lategan (Tuks), Voice Ndou (UJ), Babalwa Latsh (UWC), Elmien Cloete (UWC).
African News Agency (ANA)