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SA women on steep learning curve

SPOTLIGHT: The South African women’s national team arrived in Spain on Sunday empowered by good learnings from their training sessions with Scotland and Wales.

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With their first Test match of 2024 less than a week away, the team has a good idea of where they are in their season preparations.

According to assistant coach Laurian Johannes-Haupt, the next two weeks of the tour – which includes a Test against Spain in Valladolid on Saturday, March 23 and the United States in London on March 30 – will be another important step in the team’s preparations to qualify for the World Cup in England next year.

That opportunity comes in early May when the SA women will travel to Madagascar for Africa’s Women’s Cup tournament, with the winner in Antananarivo qualifying for next year’s showpiece.

“The focus in Spain will be Test match driven – the first 10 days of our tour were more about process and physicality, but that part is done now,” said Johannes-Haupt.

“We are entering the Test phase of the tour and that will be all that matters.

“We will apply the learnings from the first half of the tour though.

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“As we saw against Scotland on Tuesday, the value of our session against Wales last Saturday was the exposure our players got to a top-tier team.

“Wales played amongst the top six teams last year in WXV 1 and we could certainly see why.

“We have a handful of uncapped players on this trip and for them to experience the pace and style of play from a top contender will benefit them for a long time to come.

“We are here to learn and to expose our players to higher ranked competition and that certainly was something we can embrace as a coaching staff.

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“Our systems were tested and we could implement our plans as well to see how it worked against their systems.”

The session took place at the Welsh Rugby Union’s High-Performance Centre at the scenic Vale Resort near Cardiff, but cold and rainy conditions made sure the focus remained on rugby and not sight-seeing.

“The testing conditions aside, we left Vale with a lot of positives, and we can now fine-tune those aspects for the matches against Spain and the United States,” said Johannes-Haupt.

Unfortunately for the team, they will have to do without utility forward Micke Gunter, who injured knee ligaments against Wales. Gunter flew back to South Africa on Sunday and will also not be fit for the Madagascar trip.

“It was unfortunate to lose Micke,” said Johannes-Haupt. “Her versatility is an asset to the team. She gives us options as she can contribute to more than one position, but injuries happen in rugby. We will just have to shoulder on regardless. We do wish her a speedy return and recovery.”

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