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Koen changes it up for Kenia encounter

PREVIEW: The Springbok Women’s head coach Louis Koen made nine changes to his starting team and 11 overall when he named his squad to play Kenya in the Africa Women’s Cup at Stade Makis in Antananarivo on Wednesday.

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Free State Women back Sikholiwe Mdletshe will earn her first cap after being named on the left wing, while regular starter Sinazo Mcatshulwa returns at flank for South Africa’s second match of the tournament, after they outplayed Cameroon 55-0 in the opening match on Saturday.

Koen selected a new midfield, where Jakkie Cilliers will link up with Aphiwe Ngwevu, a try-scorer off the bench against Cameroon. Tayla Kinsey, South Africa’s most capped scrumhalf, will swap places with Rumandi Potgieter after playing her 33rd Test match off the bench at the weekend.

Squad members Azisa Mkiva, Roseline Botes and Xoliswa Khuzwayo swap their opening match bench role for starting positions in the front row against Kenya.

Botes (hooker) exchange places with Lindelwa Gwala and Khuzwayo (prop) with Sanelisiwe Charlie. Mkiva replaced the injured Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen early in the Cameroon game, which means Amber Schonert, who made her Test debut at the same venue last year, will provide tighthead cover against Kenya.

Vainah Ubisi and Nomsa Mokwai also exchange jerseys, with Ubisi starting and Mokwai moving to the bench where she will be joined by Unathi Qolo, who will be keen to start her contribution to the Springbok Women’s quest to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.

The Springbok Women’s last Test against Kenya was in September 2023 at the University of Western Cape Stadium in Bellville, where South Africa won by 77-12.

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Only five players who started against Kenya in that Test are back and will run out in the starting line-up again: Cilliers, Mcatshulwa, Botes, Byrhandrè Dolf and Lusanda Dumke.

Koen said he is keen to see Mdletshe in action at this level.

“She has been really good at training in recent weeks and having her on board for our European tour is now reaping rewards,” said Koen.

“She did not get the opportunity in Spain or England, but kept on working hard and contributed on and off the field, so I am delighted for her to get that first cap.”

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The Bok Women coach, who opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench, said team selection is a reflection on how they are approaching this Test.

“We want to focus on our processes, and we selected the team accordingly. We have prepared the team well and we are good to go,” said Koen.

“We have a strategy for this match and how to nullify Kenya’s attacking strengths and selected our team accordingly. We got over the first hurdle, but that was only the start.

“Kenya will present a huge challenge with South Africa’s Jerome Paarwater coaching their forwards and many of our players back home (as Western Province forwards coach).”

Kick-off is at 12.00 (SA time).

South Africa: 15 Byrhandrè Dolf, 14 Nomawethu Mabenge, 13 Jakkie Cilliers, 12 Aphiwe Ngwevu, 11 Sikholiwe Mdletshe, 10 Mary Zulu, 9 Tayla Kinsey, 8. Sizophila Solontsi, 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa, 6 Lusanda Dumke, 5 Vainah Ubisi, 4 Nolusindiso Booi, 3 Azisa Mkiva, 2 Roseline Botes, 1 Xoliswa Khuzwayo
Replacements: 16 Lindelwa Gwala, 17 Sanelisiwe Charlie, 18 Amber Schonert, 19 Nomsa Mokwai, 20 Nompumelelo Mathe, 21 Anathi Qolo, 22 Rumandi Potgieter, 23 Piwokuhle Nyanda

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