The last time Unam Tose and her Springbok Women team-mates ran onto a field, close to 30,000 people cheered them onto the hallowed turf at Twickenham, as the South Africans got ready to play the Barbarians in a historic match in the famous London venue.
The clash at the home of English rugby concluded a four match November tour for the Springbok Women, one that left the squad and coach Stanley Raubenheimer with points to ponder, but also with a solid base from which they started 2022, a year that concludes with the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
On Wednesday at Hamilton’s Rugby Football Club in Green Point, the Springbok Women’s training squad will have a first opportunity to test their improvement since last year, guided by the hard work and benefits of two training camps, with a hit-out against the hosts’ Under-20 men in the middle of their current camp.
Tose, who started at scrumhalf in that famous London match, is confident that the clash on Wednesday will be a positive experience. She is also quite keen to see how her own game has progressed, especially in the kicking stakes, where the impact of former Bok flyhalf Braam van Straaten should reflect the learnings after two kicking camps under his guidance.
“He has showed us a lot in those two camps, and we are thankful for that,” the 21-year-old University of Fort Hare student explained.
“For one, I am keen to see how much I have improved, especially with things such as box kicks, and where needed, general kicking out of hand.
“There is a lot of excitement amongst the group as we are all motivated to make it a good year. It was great getting back together and going through the various elements of our game.
“We have a lot of areas to improve on, but this camp is focussing a lot on clarity and why we do things. That will obviously be tested in a match situation, but at least it is not in front of all those thousands against the star-studded Barbarians, but rather a less pressured environment at Hamiltons.”
Tose will find familiar faces from the Twickenham clash in the rest of the backline, except on her outside, where EP Queens flyhalf Byrhandre Dolf will get a first run with the Bok Women.
The 19-year-old was originally invited to the kicking camp only, but with Zenay Jordaan’s continued absence and Libbie Janse van Rensburg not yet cleared to play, Raubenheimer roped in Dolf, as well as Kirsten Conrad, who also attended the kicking camp, to stay on and be part of their Wednesday session.
Amongst the forward pack to take the field in Cape Town, hooker Luchell Hanekom, like Dolf, will also make a first entry into senior rugby, but she will be well protected come scrum time by 2014 World Cup representatives Asithandile Ntoyanto and Babalwa Latsha, who will captain the side.
The lock pairing of Lerato Makua and Karthy Dludla will also be new. Dludla was not available for the November tour, which gave Makua a tour spot and a debut Test cap when she came off the bench against Wales in Cardiff.
Raubenheimer also moved Rights Mkhari from the middle to the side of the scrum, where she will combine with Nokubonga Siko and Sizo Solontsi, who started all four of the 2021 Tests at No 8.
The Springbok Women squad for the live session against Hamiltons Under-20: 15 Eloise Webb, 14 Nomawethu Mabenge, 13 Jakkie Cilliers, 12 Chumisa Qawe, 11 Ayanda Malinga, 10 Byrhandre Dolf, 9 Unam Tose, 8 Sizo Solontsi, 7 Rights Mkhari, 6 Nokubonga Siko, 5 Karthy Dludla, 4 Lerato Makua, 3 Babalwa Latsha (captain), 2 Luchell Hanekom, 1 Asithandile Ntoyanto. Replacements: Micke Gunter, Azisa Mkiva, Monica Mazibukwana, Sinazo Mcatshulwa, Lusanda Dumke, Rumandi Potgieter, Kirsten Conrad, Aphiwe Ngwevu.