Their ability to stand up to the highly-rated French pack in Vannes on Saturday boosted the confidence of the Springbok Women’s forwards and they are keen to have another go when they take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
The South African pack managed well against the well-drilled France team despite the lack of game time in recent years, as was the case with locks Nolusindiso Booi and Rights Mkhari.
Booi last played for the Springboks in November 2018 before sitting out many months due to a serious foot injury and got through a ton of work in a commendable 80-minute effort, while Mkhari had to overcome a bad dose of COVID earlier this year, and missed out on the entire Women’s Premier Division and the two Tests against Kenya.
In fact, Mkhari last played in December 2019 when she donned the Springbok Women’s Sevens jersey at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens before being struck down twice during the pandemic.
“I had to start all over,” the 27-year-old from Limpopo said.
“It was really bad for me during the pandemic, and it was a long, hard road to get back to full fitness. To then play my first competitive game in such a long time against the formidable pack of France and feeling happy afterwards was a huge relief.
“We stood up well I thought. We went into the game hoping to deliver a competitive performance and I think we managed that.”
Mkhari played in her fourth Test and said the experience was invaluable.
“There was a lot of catching up for me to do, but our coaches prepared us well,” she said.
“There were no real surprises coming from their pack. We managed to hold our own in the scrums and lineouts and we all felt afterwards that we were competitive throughout, especially given the lack of game time we had compared to them.”
That effort must now be sustained and Lindelwa Gwala, who wore the No 2 jersey on Saturday in Vannes, said the momentum needs to be carried over to Wales, their next opponent.
Gwala toured with the squad in 2018 when they last played Wales, losing 19-5.
“We had a lot of debutants in that pack that day,” recalled the KZN-raised Gwala, who has played in 11 of the 12 Test matches since that day.
“They came at us hard, especially that first scrum and we have a score to settle.”
The 24-year-old Gwala shared the optimism of Mkhari following the French outing.
“We managed to do what we set out to,” she said.
“We were competitive in the scrums, won our lineouts and managed some good drives which was satisfying. They have played a lot of rugby together and we did not; in fact, we hardly played any rugby recently, so this match was a good wake-up call to where we need to be.”
Gwala feels the team will bounce back quickly, having gained that experience: “We are in a better space already, having played that game and getting so much out of it.
“We will improve, no doubt and come Wales, we are expecting another competitive performance. The game we played has helped so much, we will be a better team this weekend,” she added.
The Springbok Women will travel to Cardiff on Thursday and head coach Stanley Raubenheimer will announce the match day squad on the same day.