Durban – The Springbok Women squad left South Africa on Sunday for a challenging tour of France, Wales and England where they will be given a reality check of where they stand after having played little rugby for some time.
The South African ladies play against France in Vannes next Saturday before facing Wales in Cardiff a week later. They then move to England where they will train against the strong English squad before playing a practice match against England Under-20 in three weeks’ time.
They hope to conclude the tour on a high when playing against the Barbarians at Twickenham in what will be a historic first for the Springbok Women.
The chief aim of the tour, though, will be to get their ducks in a row before next year's World Cup in New Zealand, where the Springbok Women will face France in the opening round.
According to coach Stanley Raubenheimer, this is why they have requested an encounter with the powerful French side.
“We have not played much rugby in the last two years for various reasons, so we need a reality check as to where we are with our progress and preparation,” Raubenheimer said.
“France are currently ranked third on the world rankings, so our match against them will be a good gauge of what we need to do before the World Cup next year.”
Raubenheimer says he regards the tempo of play as a crucial element to master on this tour.
“We don’t want to leave it until next year to see what France have to offer and by playing them now, we will see where we are intensity-wise and what step-up would be required. Also, we will be exposed for the first time to playing four matches in as many weeks.”
Raubenheimer was also at the helm during the side’s last visit to Wales, where the home side edged them in Cardiff.
“I don't think there is much difference between the two sides, but Wales have a lot more games under their belt because they played in the Six Nations, while we have mostly been inactive over the past two seasons,” said Raubenheimer.
He has named a bigger squad than normal, including a number of players who haven’t yet played for the Boks.
“We have seven debutants on tour, and they are there for a reason. I cannot guarantee that they will all play on tour, but they will be exposed to international rugby nonetheless by being part of the touring squad and the team environment. They need to show me in training why they want me to take them to New Zealand,” added Raubenheimer.