Saturday Starts Blitzbokke Top Four Quest

by | Jun 28, 2013

The Springbok women’s sevens team are in high spirits ahead of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens World Cup in Moscow, starting Saturday, 29 June, 2013. Photo: Tanushree Pillay

As the final squads of all 16 women’s teams set to compete at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 are declared ahead of the start of the tournament in Moscow, the Springbok Women have the benefit of greater experience than any other team at the elite IRB event, with seven caps from the debut women’s world cup in Dubai (See final squad below).

Even though those members scored a total of 58 points, the team will be aware that their dreams of a top-four finish aspirations will be contested at every turn by their Pool B rival teams, Australia, China and Ireland (See fixtures below).

Chief among those threats are defending champions Australia, who may have had an up-and-down IRB Women’s Sevens Series, but the return of powerful runner Shannon Parry, alongside teenage flyer Tiana Penitani and the experience of captain Sharni Williams and RWC Sevens 2009 winner Tavo, will stand them in good stead.

However they will not be underestimating the threat of both South Africa and Ireland to their title aspirations.

South Africa – semi-finalists in 2009 – reached the Dubai final in the Series last December, and will be relieved that Zenay Jordaan’s knee injury suffered earlier in the week proved to be only a bruise and nothing serious, as she would have been sorely missed.

Ireland come into the tournament on a high, with nine of the squad having been part of the historic Grand Slam-winning Six Nations campaign earlier this year. China won the Bowl in 2009, and while they have continued to develop since, they often find it hard when competing outside of Asia.

Pool A (Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Tunisia)

Undoubtedly the toughest pool in Moscow with three core teams from the inaugural World Series in New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands with RWC Sevens debutants Tunisia completing the quartet.

New Zealand have captain Huriana Manuel, Renee Wickliffe, Linda Itunu and Selica Winiata – the top women’s point scorer in 2009 – returning for a second title bid and will also look to their IRB Women’s Sevens Player of the Year nominees Kayla McAlister and Kelly Brazier to shine.

Canada’s captain Jen Kish – another nominee – will once again lead from the front and it will be interesting to see how the gamble of selecting Olympic bobsled gold medallist Heather Moyse after very little rugby in the last three years due to injury plays out.

Player of the Year nominee Kelly van Harskaamp will be a key player for the Netherlands while Tunisia will look to fly the flag for North Africa on the world stage.

Pool C (USA, Spain, Brazil and Fiji)

With full-time training at the Olympic training centre, USA are one of the fittest teams on the women’s Sevens circuit and with the likes of Vanesha McGee and Victoria Folayan certainly have pace to burn.

Semi-finalists four years ago they will be among the contenders again this time with Spain expected to be their biggest challengers in this pool. Spain will look to Patricia Garcia for inspiration as their leader, playmaker, kicker and lineout thrower and the face of women’s rugby in her country.

Brazil have long been the dominant force in South American women’s rugby, winning the last nine regional Sevens titles, but have found it harder to make an impact on the world stage. Paula Ishibashi will be a key player for them as they look to build on their Bowl final appearance in 2009.

Fiji are the unknown element in this pool, having changed coaches and brought in several new players since their performances in Guangzhou at the end of March, but with Sevens ingrained in the Fijian way of life they can never be ruled out despite the upheavals.

Pool D (England, Russia, France and Japan)

The pressure will be on England in the Moscow heat after they made World Cup glory their sole focus for 2013, withdrawing 17 key players from their Fifteens side, and they will be desperate not to fall short as they did in 2009 when favourites.

Six players, including captain Michaela Staniford and Heather Fisher, were part of that side to crash out in the quarter-finals to Australia and along with Jo Watmore will be key figures this time.

France caught the eye in the Women’s Series finale in Amsterdam while Japan will find life tough in this pool.

Hosts Russia will come into the tournament on a high, having been crowned European champions for the first time and with some impressive displays on the Series, including a win over Australia in Amsterdam and draw with New Zealand in Dubai. Buoyed by playing at home, Russia will be a side no team takes likely, particularly with the likes of star player Baizat Khamidova in their ranks.

 

IRB Women’s World Cup Sevens Pool B Match Schedule, in Moscow on Saturday, 29 June, 2013 (SA time):
07:44: Australia – China
08:06: South Africa – Ireland
10:40: Australia – Ireland
11:02: South Africa – China
13:58: China – Ireland
16:54: Australia – South Africa
 
The Springbok Women’s Sevens Squad:
1. Mandisa Williams
2. Bella Makwezela
3. Nomaphelo Mayongo
4. Zenay Jordaan
5. Yolanda Meiring
6. Lorinda Brown
7. Phumeza Gadu
8. Thamie Faleni
9. Fundiswa Plaatjie
10. Mathrin Simmers
11. Natasha Hofmeester
12. Veroeshka Grain

 

(With editing by gsport)

 

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