Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Paul Delport said he was pleased with the progress and improvement showed by his squad as they enter the final stage of preparation for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, to be played at AT&T Stadium in San Francisco from 20-22 July.
South Africa qualified as African champions last year and will face Russia in their opening match on Friday 20 July.
Delport named 15 players for the last push towards peak condition, including Zenay Jordaan, who represented South Africa at both the 2009 and 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens events, in Dubai and Moscow respectively. Mathrin Simmers and Veroeshka Grain, who also travelled to Russia five years ago, are also in line to make the final cut of 12.
Delport invited 20 players to be part of a wider training group earlier this month, with intense focus on fitness and conditioning, followed by match play conditions. This included a number of contact sessions with the Uganda Men’s team, who were also preparing for the USA event at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
“That was a good, intense couple of days,” Delport said.
“We appreciated the willingness of Uganda to train against us, as we needed to get use to the physicality of sevens again. We last played at the Commonwealth Games in April and with a number of new faces in the group, we needed to get them up to speed with our game plan and the intensity expected.”
The trimmed squad will have a short break from action and re-assemble back in Stellenbosch on 4 July. They will then go into the final phase of tournament preparation and will play training matches against the SA Students Women’s Sevens on 9 and 10 July, when Delport will announce the final 12 selected to travel to San Francisco.
The wider squad include five new faces – Buhle Sonamzi, Babalwa Latsha, Sinazo Mcatshulwa, Snenhlanhla Shozi and Kimico Manuel, none of whom formed part of the squad that played in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens qualifiers in Hong Kong in March or the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
“Injuries, the search for new talent and a slightly different approach in how we want to play made us look a bit wider to find the right players,” said Delport.
“Some of them were playing fifteens and I am pleased with the co-operation we got from fifteens coach, Stanley Raubenheimer , in this regard.”
The trimmed squad is: Christelene Steinhobel, Marithy Pienaar, Buhle Sonamzi, Zinhle Ndawonde, Babalwa Latsha, Sinazo Mcatshulwa, Veroeshka Grain, Megan Comley, Mathrin Simmers, Zintle Mpupha, Zenay Jordaan, Eloise Webb, Nadine Roos, Snenhlanhla Shozi, Kimico Manuel.