The prospect of playing in WXV in front of a home crowd is a big motivator for the Springbok Women as they prepare to compete in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup Division 1 2023.

This year’s Division 1 tournament involves four teams with South Africa joined in Antananarivo by host nation Madagascar, Kenya and Cameroon.

South Africa, under the leadership of interim head coach Louis Koen, begin their campaign this Saturday with a first-ever meeting against Cameroon before taking on the Lionesses of Kenya and then the Lady Makis.

The winner of the continent’s premier international women’s competition will qualify for WXV 2 as African champions, with the cross-pool event taking place across the weekends of 14, 21 and 28 October in Cape Town.

“This week we are obviously just focusing on the first game and everyone is excited and ready to go out there and represent their country,” said well-established South Africa playmaker Zintle Mpupha.

“Obviously we are not just going in it to participate, we know we have to win it to actually get into WXV (2) which is happening in South Africa,

“We don’t have a lot of opportunities to play big tests at home so that would be an opportunity to, hopefully, get more people to come and support us.

“Most of the girls are based in Cape Town and that’s where we normally camp as well to prepare for campaigns so it is somewhere that we are familiar with.”

Winning feeling

Qualifying for WXV 2 would also add to the feel-good factor that abounds in South Africa women’s rugby.

The disappointment of a winless Rugby World Cup in 2022 has been put to one side with the 35-20 win over Spain in Madrid at the start of April giving everyone a lift.

Also, the 35-strong Springbok Women squad that assembled in Pretoria last week includes five players who recently won the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series, which secured the sevens team their place in the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2024.

In addition to Mpupha, Simamkele Namba, Sizophila Solontsi and Rights Mkhari have re-joined their Rugby World Cup team-mates after the successful Stellenbosch-based event.

“It is great to have that winning feeling going into a huge tournament that we know we have to win,” said Mpupha.

“I am not saying it is going to be easy or anything but having that winning feeling gives you momentum going into the tournament.”

As the first South African international to play in England’s Allianz Premier 15s league, Mpupha is used to being a trailblazer for the women’s game.

And the 29-year-old, who is set to win her 19th cap this weekend, is the first to acknowledge that wins on the pitch lead to gains off it, too.

“It is never just for the sevens, or the 15s, it is for the women’s setup in South Africa as a whole,” she said.

“We know how much it means to win and we just want to carry on winning so more doors can be opened and we create more opportunities for women in rugby.

“A young girl seeing us winning the Challenger Series … a young girl seeing us winning the Africa Cup, it all helps to raise awareness that there is women’s rugby.  

“Sometimes it’s not just a young girl but parents as well, just being aware of it (rugby) and not being scared to let their young kid to come and play rugby because it is happening and it is really going in the direction we want it to be.”