Springbok women opt for four uncapped players against Spain

Springbok Women Sevens are through to the World sevens Series after defeating Belgium by 17-14 in the final of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Stellenbosch

File. Springbok women’s coach Louis Koen has included four uncapped players when they play Spain in a one-off Test at Pepe Rojo Stadium in Valladolid on Saturday. Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency ( ANA)

Published Mar 21, 2024


Springbok women’s coach Louis Koen has included four uncapped players – two in the starting pack and two on the bench – when they play Spain in a one-off Test at Pepe Rojo Stadium in Valladolid on Saturday to start their 2024 international season.

Xoliswa Khuzwayo (prop) and Anathi Qolo (No 8) will start in the pack for the first time, while Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen (prop) and Samantha Els (utility forward) have been included on the bench for this encounter that will also see Bok Women captain Nolusindiso Booi extend her Test cap record to 41 appearances in the green and gold.

Koen, who took charge of the national team a year ago on a corresponding tour to Spain, named 14 players who were involved in the last Test between the two countries – in Madrid on April 1, 2023, a match won 35-20 by South Africa.

"It is always nice to cap new players and, in this case, three of them came so close to selection in last year's WXV 2, when Xoliswa, Aliyah and Samantha just missed out on the final selection, while Anathi has showed tremendous growth since we invited her to join our alignment camps in December, January and February,” said Koen.

Shining lights

Khuzwayo, Tchogna-Njamen and Els did play for the Bok Women in a warm-up match against San Clemento Rhinos in Cape Town in September last year, while Qolo was one of the shining lights in the all-conquering Bulls Daisies outfit that kept a clean sheet in last year's Women's Premier Division.

The Test will also see a return to action for outside backs Jakkie Cilliers – who will be entrusted with the goal-kicking duties – and Aphiwe Ngwevu, who missed out on the WXV showpiece due to injury.

“We have a nice mix of experience and youth in the match day squad, but ultimately, we selected the team on the output and effort showed in the two training sessions against Scotland and Wales last week,” said Koen.

“All the players selected showed to me and my fellow coaches, Franzel September and Laurian Johannes-Haupt, that they wanted that jersey for the Spain Test and they got their reward."

Koen is keen to build more depth into his squad as well, with 20 capped players either injured or not available for this trip.

“This is the start to the season, and we are keen to build confidence and momentum as we head towards the World Cup qualifying tournament in Madagascar in May,” he said.

“We opted for this tour because we needed to test ourselves against the intensity and skill set of teams ranked above us. It paid off already, as we could easily pick a side based on the training sessions last week.”

Spain is ranked 12th in the world, one position above the Bok Women, and despite South Africa winning the last three encounters between the two sides, Koen is well aware of the ability of the hosts.

Improving as a team

“They did really well in WXV 3 and being so close to other rugby nations in Europe, they have the opportunity to train and play against them on a regular basis,” said Koen.

“They will have a training camp against Canada soon, so have well laid plans for their year too. They are certainly improving as a team and bar the fact that they are ranked above us, will play at home, so must be seen as favourites."

Springbok Women team : 15. Chuma Qawe, 14 Maceala Samboya, 13 Veroeshka Grain, 12 Piwokuhle Nyanda, 11 Jakkie Cilliers, 10 Byrhandrè Dolf, 9 Tayla Kinsey, 8 Anathi Qolo, 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa, 6 Sinelitha Noxeke, 5 Vainah Ubisi, 4 Nolusindiso Booi, 3 Babalwa Latsha, 2 Lindelwa Gwala, 1 Xoliswa Khuzwayo.

Replacements: 16. Roseline Botes, 17 Sanelisiwe Charlie, 18 Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen, 19 Danelle Lochner, 20 Samantha Els, 21 Rumandi Potgieter, 22 Mary Zulu, 23 Aphiwe Ngwevu.