by Ané Havenga
Women’s rugby has been increasing in popularity of late and South Africa is slowly but surely catching up to some of the bigger nations. There has been a definite mindset change in the players, the sport, and the fans. The excitement is reaching its peak as the Springbok women begin their internationals tournament journey.
The Springbok women will compete at the WXV 2 event all over the Boland and Western Cape for the next two months. After qualifying for this prestigious event earlier this year in Madagascar, they look forward to hosting some of the world’s top 10 countries.
After losing 60–5 to the Barbarians in 2021, the Springbok women are better prepared two years later. Babalwa Latsha, captain of the team and the first pro woman XV rugby player in Africa, says, “We definitely are more confident as there was a definite growth. There is a sense of freedom and belonging within the team. We want to let the younger generation see us.”
Louis Koen, former Springbok player and current interim coach for the women, highlights, “Women rugby in South Africa is merely 20 years old. There [were] a lot of women who came before us who did a lot of hard work to lay the foundations. From the players to the coaching staff. . . . We are making progress and we are moving forward. Some may say that our aims are too high, but we know what we are reaching for. We want to create a safe place for women and a family they can belong to. So that people that [are] lost can try rugby and feel loved.”
As teams in South Africa have gone professional and some of the players started playing overseas there has been a mindset shift within the players. Latsha emphasises, “That is what professional rugby ultimately demands from you. We want to create a high-performance environment so that we can grow and limit the gap. . . . God willing, I will be able to stick around long enough for my country and province to experience the full revolution.”
Latsha was impressed with the first women Varsity Cup tournament this year as it shows the game is growing immensely. Koen watched every game, which is why some of the matie players were called up to the pre-camp squad as rewards for their hard work. He has especially been impressed with Lara Schats, Bianca Augustyn and Elmé Kruger. Koen explains, “Maties had a very strong side. I want the women’s rugby to be the main game on a Monday evening for the Varsity Cup. I am glad that Bianca Augustyn and Ankia Viljoen [are] getting exposure at the National 7’s currently. I am very impressed with them.”
Viljoen adds, “It is a very inspiring environment to be around. There are very high standards and that pushes you as a player. . . . There is a place for any lady in the team and I am excited to see what is going to happen in the next few years. Hopefully one day I can also get my first cap for the Springboks.”
The personal motto for the Springbok women’s team is #ETTIG. Which means ‘every try to inspire girls.’ Latsha says, “Every single try that we score, we want to make it a victory. This is a story of overcoming. We give our hearts on the field. It is a sacred environment that we want to portray to other girls. Young girl you can do it! A life story where you are not the victim but the victor!”