Zintle Mpupha will resume her duties as Springbok Women’s Sevens captain when they tour to France next week for invitational tournaments in Paris and Nancy, where she will be joined by a former international rower and touch rugby player.
Mpupha captained South Africa to the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July last year, but missed their next trip – the Dubai International Invitational tournament in November – due to her involvement with the Springbok Women’s team in 15s, who toured Europe at that time.
Springbok Women’s Sevens coach Paul Delport also included Zinhle Ndawonde and Snenhlanhla Shozi in the squad to travel on Sunday. Both went to San Francisco last July and like Mpupha, missed the trip to Dubai because of their national 15s duties.
Snazo Mcatshulwa is another who toured with the Springbok Women in November and will travel with the sevens squad for the first time. She has been a member of Delport’s wider training squad for the last year and is one of three uncapped players in the squad, along with Catha Jacobs and Kelly van der Berg.
Delport also called on regulars such as Rights Mkhari, Christelene Steinobel, Buhle Sonomzi, Mathrin Simmers, Sizophila Solontsi, Zenay Jordaan, Nadine Roos and Eloise Webb for this trip, which is part of the squad’s preparations towards the African qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
Jacobs and Van den Berg made the switch from rowing and touch rugby respectively in recent months as Delport expanded his talent identification to other codes. Jacobs rowed at international level, while Van der Berg was a member of the South African Women’s Touch Rugby squad.
Former Olympian sprinter Alyssa Conley was not considered for this tour as her integration into rugby is still ongoing. Delport said Conley’s progress is on track and she was never considered for this trip from the start of her conversion two months ago.
“We are happy with her development and integration so far and that process is ongoing. She is in camp with us at the moment and we hope to see her on the playing field in September.”
Delport was keen to see Jacobs and Van den Berg in a tournament environment: “They played for us against Brazil a couple of weeks ago and did well. This time it is not only a couple of chukkas though, so they will be better for the experience. They both have international sporting experience from their previous codes and should fit in well.”
Delport is confident that the two tournaments will test the squad: “We have the core of our squad all available for this trip that will be a good hit-out for us.
“We have been working hard in recent months and it is always good to get tournament experience under the belt, as that type of pressure will test us and make us improve to where we need to be.
“We played against Brazil and Zimbabwe in recent months and all went well. Brazil qualified for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series last month by winning the qualifying tournament in Hong Kong and Zimbabwe won a regional tournament in their own country, so judging by our performances against them, we have an idea of what standard we are at,” Delport added.
The team depart for Paris on Sunday.
The Springbok Women’s Sevens squad:
1. Rights Mkhari
2. Christelene Steinhobel
3. Buhle Sonomzi
4. Snazo Mcatshulwa*
5. Sizophila Solontsi
6. Catha Jacobs*
7. Zinhle Ndawonde
8. Mathrin Simmers
9. Zenay Jordaan
10. Nadine Roos
11. Eloise Webb
12. Kelly van der Berg*
13. Snenhlanhla Shozi
14. Zintle Mpupha (captain)