Old ghost haunting Springbok women’s side
SPOTLIGHT: While SA Rugby is relentlessly formulating plans to get a domestic season underway, they have to be vigilant not to neglect the women’s game.
All sports have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries’ travelling restrictions have halted all major international tournaments and organizations are facing mammoth financial losses.
Nonetheless, SANZAAR is determined to save any form of rugby for this season.
According to various media reports, the Southern Hemisphere bosses are looking at hosting a ‘six-week’ Rugby Championship in Australia.
Meanwhile, SA Rugby are exploring the idea of a domestic competition in the absence of the suspended Super Rugby.
This is certainly good news for loads of professional players.
— Springbok Women (@WomenBoks) March 11, 2020
Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the women’s game.
In recent years, women’s sports have enjoyed rapid growth worldwide.
However, when it comes to budget negotiations or cuts, whether competitions, programmes or developments, women’s sports is usually the first one to be left out in the cold.
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How quickly do you forget about the women’s rugby calendar?
The Springbok women’s side is scheduled to defend their Rugby Africa Women’s Cup title between May and July – which seems highly unlikely given the current climate.
But despite these major uncertainties, formulating an alternative continental competition does not seem very high on the agenda.
Whether the tournament is postponed or cancelled the scenario certainly dilutes all the progress the South African women’s team have made over the years.
It seems like a lack of competitive matches and support will yet again be the team’s Achilles heel, as they prepare for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand in less than 17 months’ time.
The Women’s Springbok team have participated in three World Cups, making their debut in 2006 and have featured in the 2010 and 2014 edition, respectively.
However, their humiliating defeats in 2014 saw SA Rugby stop them from participating at the 2017 World Cup in Ireland.
— Springbok Women (@WomenBoks) April 9, 2020
Despite the Springbok women’s horrendous World Cup record and absence during the 2017 edition held in Ireland, coach Stanley Raubenheimer is determined to show an improvement in their performances on the international stage.
“We tried to introduce more training camps this year so that we can work directly with the players on a regular basis and monitor their progress, but obviously a few things have changed with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Raubenheimer told SA Rugby’s official website in March.
“Our April training camp has already been postponed and depending on what transpires in the next few weeks with regard to the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup [set to kick off on Saturday, May 30], we may have to alter our plans further.
“The main challenge has been the players’ training, because we have had to adapt their programmes and while all these changes are challenging, especially for the players to reach our set training targets, it will serve as a good test to see how determined they are to be in the team and to play in the Rugby World Cup.”
He added: “Another big goal this season is to get a few injured players through their rehabilitation programmes and back on the field,” said Raubenheimer.
“Our regular captain, Nolusindiso Booi [lock] and Asithandile Ntoyanto [prop], both suffered serious injuries in the last year and this extra time to work on rehabilitation will certainly do them well.”
The 2021 Rugby World Cup will run from September 18 to October 16 in New Zealand.
*Additional source: SA Rugby