Nolusindiso Booi will lead the Springbok Women for the first time since 2018 when they take on France in their November series opener in Vannes on Saturday, while coach Stanley Raubenheimer also handed first starts to Libbie Janse van Rensburg (flyhalf) and the uncapped Nadine Roos (wing).
The experienced Booi last played for South Africa in 2018 and makes a much-anticipated return to the squad, which will also be bolstered by returning Tayla Kinsey, Babalwa Latsha and Rights Mkhari, with the trio missing out on the August Test series against Kenya in Stellenbosch due to injury.
Roos has played for the Springbok Women’s Sevens team since 2016 and last year converted to the 15s code, while Janse van Rensburg, who takes over the No 10 jersey from Zenay Jordaan, made her debut against Kenya.
Booi (24 caps) and Kinsey (15 caps) are the most experienced players in the squad and, alongside replacement prop Asithandile Ntoyanto, the only players with Rugby World Cup experience.
EP Queens wing Nomawethu Mabenge also missed out on the series against Kenya due to injury, but 16 of the match-day 23 featured in the Stellenbosch Test squad.
Roseline Botes (hooker) and Amahle Nyoba (prop) are the other uncapped players in the squad and in line to make their Test debuts from the bench. Nyoba, though, was in the match-day squad against Kenya, but did not play.
Raubenheimer expressed his satisfaction with the team’s preparations and the availability of players for selection.
“Only Zenay Jordaan, who picked up a bug last week, was not considered as she could not train with the squad in the last couple of days,” said Raubenheimer.
“I have confidence in the players selected, but there can be no doubt that we will be up against a very good side. France are in the top tier of international women’s rugby and we are outside the top 10, but be it as it may, we are determined to take as much out of this game as possible.
“We will play France again in less than 11 months when we face them as our first opponents at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and after Saturday will have a better understanding of where we are in our preparation.”
Raubenheimer hopes a tweak in their tactical approach and attitude about protecting the ball will be executed by his squad.
“This is very much about what we want to achieve in certain areas of the game,” he said.
“We want to hold on to the ball for longer and have tweaked our kicking game as well after the 50/22 law came into effect.
“France bring an all-round game to the field, and we will find their intensity a huge challenge. That said, we wanted to play them for a reason, which is to be confronted by that intensity. We have to measure ourselves against the best teams in the world and this is such a test for us.”
Kick-off is at 4pm (SA time) at Stade de la Rabine and the match will be broadcast by SABC Sport (channel to be confirmed).
Springbok Women’s team to face France:
15 Eloise Webb (Boland Dames, 5 caps; 30 points – 6 tries), 14 Nomawethu Mabenge (EP Queens, 2 caps; 0 points), 13 Zintle Mpupha (Exeter Chiefs, England, 7 caps; 51 points – 9 tries, 3 conversions), 12 Chumisa Qawe (DHL WP, 4 caps; 5 points – 1 try), 11 Nadine Roos (Boland Dames; uncapped), 10 Libbie Janse van Rensburg (Blue Bulls Women; 2 caps; 5 points – 1 try), 9 Tayla Kinsey (Cell C Sharks Women, 15 caps; 36 points – 1 try; 14 conversions; 1 penalty), 8 Sizophila Solontsi (Cell C Sharks Women, 6 caps; 10 points – 2 tries), 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa (DHL WP, 8 caps; 15 points – 3 tries), 6 Lusanda Dumke (Border Women, 8 caps; 15 points – 3 tries), 5 Rights Mkhari (Blue Bulls Women, 3 caps; 35 points – 7 tries), 4 Nolusindiso Booi (DHL WP, captain; 24 caps; 10 points – 2 tries), 3 Babalwa Latsha (DHL WP, 9 caps; 10 points – 2 tries), 2 Lindelwa Gwala (Cell C Sharks, 10 caps; 5 points – 1 try), 1 Yonela Ngxingolo (Border Women, 10 caps; 5 points – 1try).
Subs: 16 Roseline Botes (DHL WP, uncapped), 17 Asithandile Ntoyanto (Border Women, 5 caps; 5 points – 1 try, 18 Amahle Nyoba (EP Queens, uncapped), 19 Catha Jacobs (Blue Bulls Women, 2 caps; 0 points), 20 Ziyanda Ngohlekana (SWD Eagirls, 1 cap; 0 points), 21 Unam Tose (Border Women, 3 caps; 0 points) 22 Jakkie Cilliers (Leopards, 1 cap; 10 points – 1 try, 1 conversion, 1 penalty), 23 Ayanda Malinga (Blue Bulls Women, 3 caps; 15 points – 3 tries).