Few would argue the impact Rights Mkhari has had on teams she has been involved with – whether it was in fifteens for the Springbok Women or the Bulls Daisies, or in the abbreviated game with the Springbok Women’s Sevens, the soft-spoken Limpopo-raised player has gained the respect of all.
In the longer version, Mkhari – a flanker who can play lock as well – was part of the squad that travelled to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup last year, but she was injured and not considered for the Rugby World Cup Sevens that followed, missing out on a rare double.
She added to her Test cap tally at the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup in Madagascar this year, as well as WXV 2, but for now, her focus will be with the Springbok Women’s Sevens and her formal introduction to the Dubai crowd.
Here, as a forward, the rangy Mkhari will be instrumental at kick-offs, tackles and turn-overs, while her acceleration has helped the squad secure three tournament wins in a row – twice during the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series and more recently, in Tunisia where they clinched the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens title.
“I played here last year when we were part of the invitational event, but making my official Dubai debut in the series will be a highlight for sure,” said Mkhari.
“I never anticipated, as someone from rural Limpopo (Bungeni village), that rugby would take me around the world and now to play in the World Series in Dubai. I have twice played in the Cape Town Sevens, which was an absolute highlight for me, but knowing that we will be part of the whole series, just added a new dimension for our team.
“The challenge is real, we are up again vastly experienced teams, but we did not work this hard and sacrificed that much to just give up when things are not going our way. There is a belief in the team, and we will fight for each other till the very last minute, that is a given.”
Mkhari said they realise their pool opponents on Saturday, New Zealand, Fiji and Great Britain, will run out as favourites.
“But that doesn’t mean that we cannot win,” he said. “We will be seen as underdogs as long as we allow ourselves to be, we need to earn the respect of our opponents as the new kids on the block.”
The Springbok Women’s Sevens face an uphill task in Dubai. Only three players have played in more than five World Series tournaments and they will face vastly experienced teams, but she is adamant that they will stay in the fight.
“We have a game plan, we have structure and we have belief,” she said. “What we lacked was an opportunity and that is now presented to us. We cannot let it go to waste.”
The Springbok Women’s Sevens will face New Zealand at 07h44, Fiji at 10h43 and Great Britain at 15h13 on Saturday.
New Zealand: P6 L6
Fiji: P6 W1 D1 L4
Great Britain: first time opponents
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