What it has not brought yet – and that issue is something that can be sorted against Samoa at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Friday afternoon – is a much-needed win for the home side.
That is the view of Springbok Women captain Babalwa Latsha, who feels that victory over Samoa will not only justify the hard work by the squad over the last two months, but it will also reward the local support they have been getting from spectators and sponsors. They also need confirmation that the road travelled is the right one.
“We have so much to lose actually,” said Latsha.
“WXV certainly gave us the things we craved as a team: the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd, the challenge to play against higher ranked teams and the chance to encounter different styles of rugby from opponents. We also asked for back-to-back matches to get used to the intensity and demands of test match rugby. We got all of that.
“Now is the time to give something back by winning against Samoa. Our coaches deserve that, our management, those wonderful staff at our team hotel, all of them who prepared us with so much detail for this day. We must respond with a commanding performance.”
The contests between the six WXV 2 teams were so tight that a win over Samoa – depending on other results – could push the Springbok Women as high as a third-placed finish. A defeat to Samoa will mean only one thing though: last place on the log and relegation to WXV 3 next year (more here).
If that defeat is by a margin of more than 15 points, South Africa could also drop to 14th place on the World Rugby women’s rankings.
“That is the reality for us, we cannot go backwards tomorrow, we just cannot,” said Latsha.
“Not only in our rankings, but also the way we play. Every carry must dominate, every tackle must take them backwards. We are defending so many things tomorrow, even our home turf.”
The two sides met three weeks ago in a warm-up Test in Hermanus. The Springbok Women started well before being overran by Samoa in the middle stages of the match, but the hosts recovered again to secure a draw.
“That match had its merits, but that was not WXV,” said Latsha.
“We start afresh in this one, the pressures are different, the teams are not quite the same and if ever we were with our backs against the wall, it will be tomorrow.
“Knowing my team, we are resilient, we rise to challenges, and we fight to the very end. Those words need to be put into action though and we are determined to do just that.”
With both teams’ discipline letting them down in their first two matches, Italian referee Clara Munarini and her assistants will keep a close eye on the match. The South Africans have conceded a red and a yellow card and Samoa three yellow cards – the only cards dished out in the tournament.
Munarini has refereed South Africa on four occasions already – with the Bok Women winning one – and will oversee Samoa for the first time.
The two opponents also had very similar WXV performances so far. Both have a -32 points differential, with Samoa scoring five tries to the four by South Africa. Going back in history, the honours are also even, with Samoa winning in 2006 and South Africa tipping the scales in 2014 before the draw earlier this month.
12/09/2006 – Edmonton: Samoa 43-10
13/08/2014 – Paris: South Africa 25-24
07/10/2023 – Hermanus: Draw 17-17
Springbok Women Records:
- Nolusindiso Booi will play in her 40th test match, the most of any Springbok Women in the history of the game.
- Libbie Janse van Rensburg (176 points - 7 tries, 51 conversions, 12 penalty goals, 1 drop goal) will extend her Test points’ record if she scores any points on Friday.
Match information: Springbok Women against Samoa
Date: Friday 27 October
Venue: Athlone Stadium, Cape Town
Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Aurelie Groizeleau (France), Precious Pazani (Zimbabwe)
TMO: Leo Colgan