Centre Benele Makwezela will make her Test debut for the Springbok Women in the team’s opening Women’s Rugby World Cup clash against Australia at the French Rugby Federation in Marcoussis on Friday after being named in a quality team by coach Lawrence Sephaka on Thursday.
Makwezela participated in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow last year and made her first appearance for the Springbok Women on the team’s Rugby World Cup warm-up tour to London and France in June and July where she featured in the matches against the Nomads.
Nine players in Sephaka’s match 22 played in the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup in London, while five of them also participated in the 2006 World Cup in Canada. These players are captain and No8 Mandisa Williams, flank Lamla Momoti, prop Cebisa Kula, replacement scrumhalf Fundiswa Plaatjie and replacement flyhalf Zandile Nojoko.
Five of the players in the squad, meanwhile, made their Test debuts against France in July on the warm-up tour, which includes fullback Cindy Cant and lock Celeste Adonis.
“Our approach for this World Cup is horses for courses, and we believe that this team is best suited to the way we would like to play against Australia,” said Sephaka. “This match-22 has a good mix of youth and experience, which is ideal. The World Cup experience is particularly important because this is a big occasion for the team and for the individuals, so it is important to have players who can guide the youngsters when necessary.”
Sephaka was delighted for Makwezela and he hoped the fact that she would play her first Test in a Rugby World Cup would make the occasion more memorable.
“Benele played very well against the Nomads in London and she was unlucky not to be selected to face France in July,” said the coach. “But she has put in a lot of extra work since that tour to show us what she is capable of and it paid off. It is a special moment for any player to make their debut and to achieve this in a World Cup is particularly special, so I wish her the best of luck.”
Zoning in on the match Sephaka expected a tough onslaught from Australia and said his charges had to be strong in all areas of the game to start the World Cup on a high note. The last time the teams met was in the final pool match of the 2010 World Cup and the result was a 62-0 defeat for South Africa. But Sephaka said his team had more to offer this time around.
“Australia are a quality team with skilful backs and powerful forwards, so we will be tested in all facets of our game,” Sephaka said. “We are particularly wary of their game-breakers in the backline, and we know that they will punish us if we make mistakes. So it is important for us to deliver solid set pieces and use our possession well. We also need to remain focused for the full 80 minutes to achieve our goal of starting the World Cup on a strong note. We have worked hard in the last few months to improve our standard of play and if we play to our potential I believe we can do well.”
The match will be broadcast live on Friday on SuperSport 1 at 15h45 and can also be viewed on livestreaming on rwcwomens.com
Springbok Women’s squad to face Australia in RWC opener, Friday 1 August, 2014:
15 – Cindy Cant
14 – Veroeshka Grain
13 – Benele Makwezela
12 – Lorinda Brown
11 – Phumeza Gadu
10 – Zenay Jordaan (vice-captain)
9 – Tayla Kinsey
8 – Mandisa Williams (captain)
7 – Vuyolwethu Vazi
6 – Lamla Momoti
5 – Cindy Booi
4 – Celeste Adonis
3 – Cebisa Kula
2 – Denita Wentzel
1 – Asithandile Ntoyanto
16 – Thantaswa Macingwana
17 – Nwabisa Ngxatu
18 – Andrea Mentoor
19 – Shona-Leah Weston
20 – Fundiswa Plaatjie
21 – Zandile Nojoko
22 – Siviwe Basweni