The South Africans completed their WXV 2 campaign with a hard-fought, but deserved 33-7 victory over Samoa – their first in the competition – after leading by 26-0 at the break.
“The first half against Samoa showed what the team is capable of and that was highly rewarding for us as a group and coaching staff,” said Koen.
“The second half did deteriorate a bit, but we managed to finish in the top four of the competition, and that result will give us massive confidence and a roadmap for the way ahead.”
The Bok Women coach applauded the WXV concept, as it gave his team a three-week window to play top sides such as Scotland, Italy and Samoa.
“The lessons learned from each of these games are great,” said Koen. “We will sit down and analyse and see where we can get better, but for now, there is massive gratitude and relief that we managed to make the step-up.
“The players worked very hard and will look back at this campaign more experienced and with a clear understanding on what levels they need to be competitive.”
Koen reflected on the three matches with huge satisfaction: “We had our chances in the opening match against Scotland, with the only difference their ability to close the big moments out.
“That is one lesson for us in the future: how to control and direct games better. Our decision-making on the field can improve a lot and it showed in patches against Scotland.”
A red card and yellow cards against Italy spoiled their second match, according to Koen.
“We were out of it in that second half losing those players and having to play with 13 players,” said Koen. “But what I saw in that match was the fight shown by the players and I was very proud of their second half performance against such a highly ranked team like Italy.”
Friday’s victory over Samoa was a highlight for Koen, especially after they drew with the team from the Pacific Islands a few weeks ago in a WXV warm-up.
“In our previous match in Hermanus, we had many players coming back from injury and that showed,” said Koen.
“Today we played great rugby for 40 minutes. The second half was a bit disappointing, but that first half was so inspiring to everyone who watched. We want to attract more women to the game, and playing like we did will do that.
“WXV was great, and we are thankful for the opportunity. We cannot wait for next year. We have learned valuable lessons and the Springbok Women as a group are in a better place because of that.”