Springbok Women set for two Test-series against Japan

The Springbok Women will travel to the Far East next month for two historic Tests against the Japan national women’s team, the Sakura Fifteen, in Iwate and Saitama, the Japan Rugby Union announced earlier on Saturday.

The Tests are scheduled for 24 July in the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium in Iwate, and on 30 July in Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama, in what will be the first tour of South Africa’s national women’s side to Japan. The hosts are ranked 12th and the Springbok Women 13th on World Rugby’s rankings.

The trip to the Far East was welcomed by SA Rugby High Performance Manager for Women’s Rugby, Lynne Cantwell, who said the tour will be another step closer to preparing the squad for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

“There are a number of reasons why we were glad to accept the invitation from Japan – the tour will give the squad that experience to play after travelling west to east, something they will experience when going to New Zealand in late September,” said Cantwell.

“It also provides another opportunity to play together as a team and do so in a highly competitive environment. The matches form part of our build-up phase to prepare our squad as best possible for the Rugby World Cup.”

Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer said the two Tests will demand a variety of different skills from his players.

“We are quite close to each other on the world rankings, but they have just managed to beat Australia and Fiji in Gold Coast and won all three their matches on tour in Australia,” said Raubenheimer.

“They will test our defensive system in a different way due to the speed they play with, so it will a huge challenge for us to not only adapt to the travel, but also the different style of play that we are used to.”

The Springbok Women are currently in camp in Cape Town, where they beat Zimbabwe by 108-0 in their first match of the year on Wednesday. They will face Namibia on Thursday in the second of their Pool A matches in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup.

The Sakura Fifteen’s Team Director, Keiko Asami, welcomed the matches, and said: “We’re pleased to be able to play test matches in front of our home fans as we prepare for Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in October. We would like to express our appreciation to all those who have worked hard to make these matches possible.

“These test matches will be hugely important for our RWC preparations, not only for player selection, but also for the team experience, and for giving young and new players the chance to play at the highest level. Our recent victories over Fiji, the Australian Barbarians, and the Wallaroos have given us a great deal of confidence.”

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