Speedster Veroeshka Grain says the future of South African women’s rugby looks bright.
The main objective for the Springbok Women’s Sevens team is clear…they are preparing to put themselves in a strong position to earn core status at the World Series qualifying tournament in December.
After suffering relegation in heart-breaking circumstances in Ireland last year, the female Blitzboks are determined to prove that they’re worthy of playing on the international stage against the best teams in the world.
They did just that when the SA Select Women Sevens team clinched the Hong Kong Invitational Cup title, beating France in the final to become the first South African team – men’s or women’s – to win a tournament in Hong Kong. They also recently secure top prize at a sevens tournament in Roma, Italy.
Veroeshka Grain, who has been one of the top performers for the Springbok Women and received the top women’s prize at SA Rugby Awards in February, believes the current squad has what it takes to achieve their goals.
“Many people don’t realise how far the women’s game has come. When I started playing rugby at school, I only had the opportunity to play one game year,” Grain told MyPlayers.
“We now have clubs competing regularly during the season. We also have provincial tournaments during the year. The women’s game in South Africa is definitely making progress, but there’s so much more potential for us to fulfil.
“The national team is improving too. We have gone through a learning process in recent seasons, but we are ready to play our way back into the World Series circuit. We’re playing a number of invitational tournaments this year, which we will use as preparation for the qualifying tournament in December.”
Grain plays both 15s and sevens rugby for South Africa. The speedster is a huge threat with ball in hand out wide, playing a big part in the team’s attack.
“I only started playing sevens rugby in 2013 and I love it. In 15s, one doesn’t get much space to run with the bal. In sevens, you get much more space to cover and I really enjoy making the most of it.”
Grain added that the Springbok Women Sevens team has been able to build a more balanced game plan.
“While I do enjoy attacking rugby, it’s important for the team to have a balanced game if we hope to achieve success against the best teams. A good attack needs to be matched by a solid defence. This is something we’ve been working on during the year so far and we’re making good progress.”
A key role player during this process has been head coach Renfred Dazel, who comes with plenty of experience as a former Springbok Sevens regular. Grain explained that he offers valuable insight.
“Renfred is very knowledgable as he comes with plenty of sevens experience, having played many years for South Africa before. This helps a lot as we aim to improve. He’s working hard on the field and behind the scenes to ensure we’re ready for the qualifying tournament at the end of the year.”
While the Springbok Women Sevens have their objectives set for 2016, Grain identified more goals in the long term.
“The national women’s game is currently moving in the right direction. We are a group of players with national contracts, who are able to focus on the game on a full-time basis and provide for their families. This wasn’t possible before and makes a big difference in our lives as professional players,” said Grain.
“As we aim for World Series qualification, we need to keep aiming for success and achieve the desired results. Missing out on the Olympics selection was a setback for us, but we must look forward. We want to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in 2018. That experience will be vital as we hope to earn selection for the next Olympics in 2020.”
By Gareth Duncan
– This article first featured in the third issue MyPlayers Magazine in May