Koen: Bok Women’s skill and intensity will be tested by USA

Powerful No 8 Aseza Hele is back in the Springbok Women team for today’s Test against USA. Photo: BackpagePix

Powerful No 8 Aseza Hele is back in the Springbok Women team for today’s Test against USA. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 30, 2024


SPRINGBOK Women coach Louis Koen has urged his team to “focus on ourselves and do the things we need to do” in today’s Test against the United States in London.

The South Africans pulled off a thrilling 15-13 victory over Spain in Valladolid last weekend, with wing Jakkie Cilliers slotting a late penalty.

But the Bok Women will face a far more challenging match from the Americans, who will be playing their first Test under new coach Sione Fukofuka, at the Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club ground in West London (3pm SA time kick-off).

South Africa are currently in 12th position on the World Rugby rankings, with USA ninth. The Americans are using the match as preparation for their upcoming Pacific Four Series tournament, where they will face Canada in Los Angeles and heavyweights New Zealand in Hamilton and Australia in Melbourne.

The Bok Women are also trying out a few combinations ahead of the Africa Cup, which will take place in Madagascar in May and serve as a qualifier for the first-tier WXV 1 tournament in Canada in September and October, having participated in the WXV 2 and finished third on home soil in Stellenbosch and Athlone last year.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us against a team ranked in the top 10 in the world. They are a team that’s physical, they’ve got athletes, they move fast... And of course, they’ve got a new coach (Fukofuka), so their players will want to impress him,” SA coach Louis Koen said this week.

“We are very excited about this opportunity, and hope to focus on ourselves and the things we need to do – and implement the things that we are putting in place, looking forward to the Africa Cup, so that when we arrive at that tournament, we will be ready.”

Koen made a few changes to the team that started against Spain, with flyhalf Byrhandrè Dolf shifting to fullback in place of Chuma Qawe, while Mary Zulu will slot in at No 10.

Asiphe Mayaba gets an opportunity at right wing in place of Macaela Samboya, and Aseza Hele returns at No 8 in place of Anathi Qolo. The new face on the bench is lock Nomsa Mokwai, who replaces Samantha Els.

“We tried to have a bit of consistency with this selection from our Test match against Spain. Anathi Qolo did a really great job for us (against Spain), but it’s good for Aseza to be back in the starting team as she transitioned from her club, Harlequins, back to our system – so very happy to have her on board,” Koen said.

“Mary Zulu is a very exciting young player, and it’s important for us going forward to give her those Test opportunities.

“Nomsa Mokwai is in for her first involvement on tour. She’s not been with the Springboks for some time, but she makes a welcome return. We are very excited about her potential, and also her involvement in our programme going forward.

“We want to play top-10 sides as they will test us with regards to skill and intensity.

“The USA is a fast, mobile unit and they have experienced players in their team. For us to improve, we need to be tested and our shortcomings exposed. That will only happen if you are up against the best sides in the world.

“It is a nice way to finish our tour. We have set good building blocks in place for the Africa Cup, (which is) our pathway to the Rugby World Cup, and this match is the final opportunity to get our system tested and improved.”

* The match will be streamed live at 3pm on the SA Rugby YouTube channel.

Springbok Women Team

15 Byrhandrè Dolf 14 Asiphe Mayaba 13 Veroeshka Grain 12 Piwokuhle Nyanda 11 Jakkie Cilliers 10 Mary Zulu 9 Tayla Kinsey 8 Aseza Hele 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa 6 Danelle Lochner 5 Vainah Ubisi 4 Nolusindiso Booi (captain) 3 Babalwa Latsha 2 Lindelwa Gwala 1 Xoliswa Khuzwayo.

Bench: 16 Roseline Botes 17 Sanelisiwe Charlie 18 Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen 19 Anathi Qolo 20 Nomsa Mokwai 21 Rumandi Potgieter 22 Aphiwe Ngwevu 23 Chuma Qawe.

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