By Ali Donnelly
South Africa may not have won a game at the recent Nations Cup in Canada, but a draw with France and some battling performances against the USA, the hosts and England suggest that in less than a year they could be a team to trouble the top nations at the World Cup.
Head coach Denver Wannies certainly believes so.
Having been given automatic qualification for the Womens Rugby World Cup 2010 (WRWC) by the IRB, South Africa have been able to fully focus and build towards the competition over the past year. Wannies hopes his side will play at least six more test games before the event kicks off next August in London, by which time South Africa have the potential to have become a much-improved force. Waanies, who has been involved with womens rugby at national level for three years including a stint with the national 7s team said his side achieved plenty at the Nations Cup.
Our goal was that we wanted to gauge ourselves against some of the worlds top teams and establish what we need to do to be able to match them in 2010. We were also looking at building a team with a good rugby culture and ethic and I believe we have achieved that and a little more in that we discovered some players that we thought would take some time to mature as well.
A 17-17 opening day draw with France highlighted how far they had progressed at the 15aside game, having also impressed at the Rugby World Cup (RWC) Sevens in Dubai earlier this year where they were beaten by the eventual winners Australia in the semi-finals.
What is exciting me about these players and this team is that our overall performances were good. I am happy with the standard of the tournament and how we were able to raise our game to that standard and that is an indication of our abilities, Wannies added.
South Africa travelled to Canada and the Nations Cup in August with all 12 players who represented their nation at the RWC Sevens and the task since then has been about seamlessly blending the skills of the 7s players into a 15aside game.
It is common knowledge that 7s is the basis of our game and hence all of those players are key in our approach. Essentially this is why I am here, to transfer all those aspects of 7s that are working so well for us into a 15 aside game. This includes the level of mutual understanding we are getting to.
On the 7s front, Wannies is excited about the prospect of womens rugby at the Olympics should the decision decide in favour of rugby later this month.
The Olympics would offer us another chance for top class international competition.
Over the next 10 months South Africa will meet as a national squad of around 30 leading players every month and they hope to play at least six test games in the buildup to the WRWC.
Whats likely is that the South Africans will travel some distance to pit themselves against internationally established outfits as Waanies says he wants his side to compete against top-ranked opposition.
The only negative aspect of our preparation is the distance that we have to cover to get good quality competition. We are hopeful this will be addressed soon by the IRB as all of the developing nations are looking for more regular competitions.