Springbok Women’s Rugby: A gem in the making

Springbok women's rugby
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Springbok Women’s Rugby may not be well known by many, so Women’s Month in South Africa is the ideal time to share a little more information about how the South African rugby ladies are doing.

Ryan Jordan compiled this article with context information supplied by SA Rugby.

Springbok Women’s Rugby is well set for future growth

After the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup, the tough decision was made to remove the Springbok Women’s Rugby team from the 15’s competition. This allowed SA Rugby to start working on the support structures to build a successful international team. This would include introducing a professional 7’s team, based in Stellenbosch as the Blizbokke are. Below, we explore a few relevant questions to explain to rugby fans where the Springbok Women’s Rugby plan is right now.

The level of professionalism in South Africa’s women’s rugby setup

There are currently 20 players who are receiving salaries. The intent was to ensure that the ladies were able to play at Test level, with access to gyms, medical aid, dieticians, and free study. At a provincial level, it does vary. The Blue Bulls are currently creating a professional program. There is a potential URC Women’s spot open for each competing country that they would like to be in pole position to compete in the new tournament.

The partnership with First National Bank (FNB) has also helped to progress Springbok women’s rugby and lay the foundation for future growth.

Growing the game in South Africa

The commitment by FNB is seen as an indicator to prospective sponsors that SA Rugby is serious about developing the women’s game and that investing in the local Currie Cup competition is a viable sponsorship. Women’s Currie Cup games are either broadcast live or streamed, so there is exposure.

Youth team competitions (YTC) have also become well established, with SA Rugby under 16 and under 18 tournaments taking place. Former player, Cebisa Kula has been appointed as YTC Manager and will be key to growing the YTC brand.

Gateways for women rugby players and administrators

The renewed focus over the last few years has also started opening gateways for the ladies of the game. As mentioned above, Cebisa Kula, a former Springboks loosehead prop has been appointed as YTC Manager. Lynne Cantwell, Ireland’s most capped women’s rugby player has been appointed as the Springbok Women’s Rugby High-Performance Manager. On the refereeing front, former player, Aimee Barrett-Theron, serves on the South African refereeing panel. She has officiated at various levels. These include Test, Sevens, Currie Currie Cup and URC level.

The synergy between the Springboks squads

The first real synergy between the Springboks men’s team and the Springboks women’s rugby teams started during the original Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa. They shared duties handing out food parcels to those in need, as well as cooking in soup kitchens.

The synergy that really attracted positive attention in South Africa was over the weekend of 12 and 13 August 2022. The Springboks men’s team was facing the All Blacks on Saturday and the Springboks women’s team was facing Spain on the same day. This was the first time that both national teams played at the same venue on the same day. The synergy that attracted so many positive comments on social media was team photo day on Friday. The squads assembled for a combined team photograph as opposed to the traditional separate photographs.

 

Springbok Women’s rugby in a good place

What we can glean from all of these positive highlights, the women’s game is in a good place in South Africa. This is especially true after their reset after the 2014 Rugby World Cup and the now structured processes to grow the game. High-level appointments have been made and the team is moving up the World Rugby rankings. They still have a way to go to be competitive against powerhouses, but they do have momentum and significant backing from SA Rugby.

Photo Credit: Springbok Women on August 18, 2022.