While Rugby World Cup 2021 may be some way off in the distance, South Africa are continually looking to develop and evolve as a team ahead of the showpiece tournament in New Zealand.
South Africa secured their place at the tournament following victory in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup last month, but preparations will step up another level over the next few weeks when they take on the higher-ranked Spain followed by back-to-back tests against ever-improving Six Nations outfit Scotland.
The Springbok Women already have a good idea of what to expect from Las Leonas after a Spain Invitational XV beat a South Africa Select XV 17-5 in Saturday’s warm-up match at the WJ de Wet Stadium in Despatch in the Eastern Cape, and the same venue will be used seven days later for the test against Spain.
The City Park Sports Ground in Cape Town will then host the two-match series against Scotland on 30 September and 5 October.
“Spain and Scotland are used to playing on the international circuit and they face tough competition regularly, so these matches will pose different challenges to that we faced in August,” acknowledged vice-captain Zinhle Ndawonde (main picture).
“The Spain Invitational XV gave glimpses against the SA Select Women over the weekend of what they will bring to this week’s test, particularly with their strong forward play and hard running on attack, so we need to hit the ground running when we take the field.
“That said, we are in a good space as a team and we know that everything we do going forward will be important with an eye on preparing for the World Cup.
“These matches will serve as a good yardstick to measure the standard we are at now compared to the opposition, and at the same time, it will give us an idea of what we need to work on in the next two seasons and what areas we can build on in our game.
“So although it will be challenging, we are really looking forward to it.”
South Africa declined to enter a team into the qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland but have been competitive in defeats to Wales, Italy and Spain – all top 10 ranked nations – since then, as well as claiming regional bragging rights with emphatic victories against Uganda, Madagascar and Kenya in the Rugby Africa Women's Cup.
For Durban-based firefighter Ndawonde, competing at RWC 2021 would be a dream come true and reward for her dedication to the sport.
“I started playing rugby in 2008, so it took a very long time to get to where I am now,” said the hard-running centre.
“In 2016 when I was first called up to the Springbok Women’s sevens team, I realised what could happen in life if you work hard toward something, and it was then that I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever it takes to make it to the top in the sport.
“In the last few years my discipline improved in terms of my training and my diet, and I have been working very hard on improving my fitness levels and lifestyle in general.
“This certainly paid off because the last few years have been an incredible journey.
“The Rugby World Cup Sevens remains one of my main highlights, and I would love to be part of the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand in the 15-a-side code.”