While the Blitzboks are one of the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup Sevens Men’s Championship Cup in San Francisco this weekend, the South African Women’s Sevens team are not expected to fight for a place on the podium.
However, coach Paul Delport says his side hasn’t travelled halfway across the world just to make up the numbers or to have a nice holiday in the Golden State. They are genuinely looking to ruffle a few feathers this coming weekend.
The Springboks Women’s Sevens team have had probably their best preparation for a World Cup, as Delport had more than 20 ladies fighting for a place in the squad before he settled on the 12 he thinks can make an impact at the tournament.
The South Africans are the No. 13 seeds, and they have a tough assignment against No. 4-ranked Russia in their tournament opener. The knockout format adds further pressure because defeat by Russia and another loss in the Challenge Trophy, against either No. 5 seeds United States or No.12-ranked China, could have them knocked out of the tournament and consigned to the play-offs for the 13-16 placings.
Delport, though, says the team ” set ourselves quite a realistic goal”.
“So whether we are playing in the Cup or the [Challenge Trophy] … we want to go out there and maybe surprise a few teams,” Delport, who played at the 2009 Sevens World Cup with the Blitzboks, told KweséESPN.
“We really had good prep and the best buildup camp we have ever had. The ladies that have come through have really done well.”
Women’s rugby in South Africa has benefitted from SA Rugby’s increased investment over the past few years, and eight ladies now are contracted as full-time sevens players.
The ladies prepared for the World Cup at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport alongside their male counterparts, and they were exposed to the culture of the Blitzboks team, which Delport wants to replicate.
“We feed off the guys’ energy and their success, but more so we feed off their culture,” Delport said.
“These ladies punch way above their weight, as some have only been playing rugby for two or three years, while the guys have been playing rugby since the age of five or six.
“But what is great about the ladies is that, because they don’t have a reference point, they are willing to learn. I’m hard on them in terms of the fundamentals, because those are the things that they can control, but their development has been really good.
“Your learning curve is key. We don’t actually have a year to develop someone. We might have three months and then we expect you to go and perform on the world stage.”
That world stage beckons this weekend at the World Cup …