The SA Select Women Sevens team will face 2016 Olympic hosts, Brazil, and Papua New Guinea in the pool stages of the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens invitational tournament on March 28 in the opening competition of their 2014 season.
The tournament features 12 teams, among them Canada, Ireland, China, Japan and Brazil, who will all participate in the second leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in Atlanta, USA, this weekend.
The SA Select Women squad have been based in Port Elizabeth since early January preparing for the season, which coach Renfred Dazel believes is vital to improve their consistency and confidence, as they look to play their way into the Women’s World Series core group next season.
Should they achieve this goal and complete the 2014/2015 IRB Women’s World Series within the top four sides, they will qualify automatically for the Rio Olympic Games, which Dazel says is their main objective in the next two seasons.
“Brazil is one of the 12 teams in the core group of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, so being drawn in the same pool as them in Hong Kong will serve as a fantastic opportunity to measure where we are compared to those teams,” said Dazel.
“Canada is another team on the IRB circuit, and if we perform well in the round-robin stages we could face them either in the quarterfinal, or semifinal – which would be a bonus,” said the SA coach.
“We have hard work ahead to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016, so every tournament we participate in serves as an important step to achieve that goal,” Dazel added. “The key for us this season is to deliver quality performances consistently and to see a steady improvement in the quality of our play.”
In line with this Dazel has added extra gym sessions to the players’ daily training programme, and he says this has contributed to enhanced fitness levels within the group.
“The women are looking good and their test results have shown a clear improvement in their fitness since they assembled in Port Elizabeth earlier this year, which is pleasing,” said Dazel. “We hope to see this transferred onto the field of play next month.”
The Hong Kong tournament will be followed by an African tournament hosted in Kenya in April, and the IRB Women’s World Sevens Series leg in Amsterdam in May.
The players will then focus their efforts on playing for places in the 26-member squad for the 15-a-side IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in Paris, from 1 to 17 August.
(With editing by gsport)