June 18, 2024

All set as the Women’s Premier Division kicks off this weekend

CAPE TOWN – The Women’s Premier Division kicks off this weekend with a host of new coaches, new-look squads and the presence of international players set to deliver another season of top-class provincial women’s rugby action.

The 2023 competition will again feature a double round of fixtures, which will result in three matches per weekend, and each team playing all the other sides on a home and away basis, with one team having a weekly bye.

Border Ladies are the defending champions having pipped DHL Western Province in the final last year – the second time in as many years the team from the Eastern Cape have defeated their Western Cape opponents in the season finale in Cape Town.

The Border will take on the renamed and revamped Bulls Daisies, with the Pretoria side rebranding their squad as part of an ambitious plan to elevate the women’s game in that province. Part of that saw a huge recruitment drive from the likes of DHL WP and Border and the appointment of a new coaching regime of Hayden Groepes and former Bok Women captain, Mandisa Williams.

Border stalwarts from last year such as Unam Tose, Lusanda Dumke, Yonela Ngxingolo and Asithandile Ntoyanto all moved to Pretoria in 2023 and will face their old teammates in East London this weekend, where the two teams will play their season opener at 15h00 at Police Park in East London. Dumke will also be co-captain alongside Libbie Janse van Rensburg.

The Daisies contracted 35 players in a first for women’s rugby and stakes will be high for them to deliver from the start.

For Border coach, Nwabisa Ngxatu, there will be comfort in having stalwarts like Yandisa Nobanda, Olwethu Nayiphi and Khanya Ketani around, while Aphiwe Ngwevu will have a huge impact when available.

At least 28 Springbok Women players will not be available for selection between 14-28 May, when the national squad are in camp and travel to Madagascar for the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup, and Ngwevu is most likely to be one of those.

Former Springbok Women coach Stanley Raubenheimer has been appointed DHL WP coach for this season, while his backline coach at last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, Lungisa Kama, has been appointed coach of the KZN side. The two will now try to outsmart each other, having worked together as national coaches for four years.

The home side lost international stars Zintle Mpupha and Simamkele Namba to the Daisies and will be without national skipper Nolusindiso Booi, but they will have serious attacking fire power in the Qawe twins, Chumisa and Chuma, while Sinazo Mcatshulwa will bring heaps of experience and Luchell Hanekom youthful exuberance.

Kama would be mindful of his former midfielders, but also have heaps of experience in his team. Tayla Kinsey is the most experienced scrumhalf in South Africa and Mary Zulu one of the best flyhalves around, but his real plan will be to mute the home pack. The likes of Karthy Dludla and Nompumelelo Mathe will play an important role in this regard.

The season’s opener, between the Mastercard Golden Lions Women and EP Queens in Johannesburg at 12h30 on Saturday, could be a close one. The Gautengers were newcomers to the Premier Division last year and they lacked experience, but coach Timmy Goodwin is known for his ability to improve squads and when Aretha Thomo leads her team onto the field, the Lions will be ready and able.

The EP Queens will have Zenay Jordaan in a new role, with South Africa’s most decorated women’s player now assistant coach following her retirement after last year’s Rugby World Cup. Head coach Lex de Vos welcomed Jordaan into the squad as his new backline coach and will be looking at his outside backs to provide some scoring impetus in the match, especially powerhouse wing, Nomawethu Mabenge.

Sanelisiwe Charlie’s scrumming ability proved too much for the Spanish in their recent test match with the Springbok Women and will be a factor in this match, played at the UJ Stadium. The Queens will be captained by Olwethu Kasibe.

Match information:

Mastercard Golden Lions Women v EP Queens

Date: Saturday 6 May

Venue: UJ Stadium, Johannesburg

Kick-off: 12h30

Referee: Sinesipho Foloti

DHL Western Province v Cell C Sharks Women

Date: Saturday 6 May

Venue: Hamilton RFC, Cape Town

Kick-off: 13h00

Referee: Angie Bezuidenhout

Live stream: SuperSport schools app

Border Ladies v Bulls Daisies

Date: Saturday 6 May

Venue: Police Park, East London

Kick-off: 15h00

Referee: Zoë Naude

Live stream: SuperSport schools app

Bye: Boland Dames

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