Last year, the Springbok women’s rugby team represented South Africa at the IRB Women’s Rugby World in Canada.
It was the first time that South Africa sent a team to the Women’s World Cup, and it was seen as a positive step forward for the women’s game in the country.
The national team failed to win a game at the World Cup, but gained valuable experience from playing against some of the world’s top female players.
But that was the last action seen by the squad, and Springbok loose forward Mandisa Williams a lack of exposure to top-flight rugby is not good for the women’s game.
“Since the World Cup, we haven’t played an international, which brings the women’s side down, and it’s not good for women’s rugby,” says Mandisa.
“We’ve come back from the World Cup and showed them what we learnt, and now it’s making many women want to play,” she said. “It’s also making people more interested in watching women and hopefully we get more sponsors.
The South African Rugby Union’s head of Women’s Rugby, Mahlubi Puzi, told gsport: “We would have loved to play an international game but most countries are busy with rebuilding which happens after the World Cup. I will meet some people in May in the United Kingdom, at an IRB Conference.”
Puzi says Women’s Rugby in South Africa has taken great strides in a short space of time.
SARU introduced Women’s Rugby back in 2001 on August 9, National Women’s Day, and the first ever Springbok Rugby women’s team was selected in May 2004.
Despite their limited experience, the women have learned quicly how to absorb pressure against top opposition.
In April 2005, the Springbok women’s team won their first ever overseas Test, beating Wales 24-9 in Cardiff.
But Puzi agrees there is room for improvement and says there should be a special focus on the growth of rugby at youth level, through mass participation and an emphasis on fundamental skills development at all levels.
He is also keen to see the strengthening of Club structures and competitions, including Sevens, to recruit athletes to the game.
“Through the Development Departments of Provinces from 2007, there will be special focus on Seven’s, Touch and Tag variations to introduce girls to the game. There are Development Officers in every province.”
SARU has still not managed to attract a sponsor for Women’s Rugby, and relies on allocations from the LOTTO and the Department of Sport and Recreation.