A few months after the announcement, when the South Africans played in the first women’s event at HSBC Cape Town Sevens in December of 2019, their spirits were sky-high, as they started building towards the World Series Challenger Series tournament in Stellenbosch early in 2020.
Then the global COVID pandemic hit.
The temporary suspension of the sevens programme due to the pandemic and the subsequent slow return to action for the women suddenly made the re-entry into international sevens rugby seem like wishful thinking.
Come 2022 though, and suddenly the team sprung back to life and in a short couple of months, they featured in the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens in Tunisia, the HSBC France Sevens in Toulouse, the Commonwealth Games in England and the Challenger Series in Chile.
Now, much to the relief of stalwart Eloise Webb, the Rugby World Cup Sevens is on the horizon as well, with the tournament kicking off in the Mother City in just over two weeks’ time.
Webb, who represented South Africa at the 2018 RWC Sevens in San Francisco, was part of the squads that travelled to Tunisia and France, but an injury ruled her out shortly after returning from Toulouse.
Much to Webb’s relief – and that of both Springbok Women and Springbok Women's Sevens coaches, Stanley Raubenheimer and Paul Delport – her road to recovery was completed successfully and as per agreement, she re-joined the sevens squad when they assembled for their final Rugby World Cup camp.
“It is such a relief to be cleared and to know that I will be in contention to play in Cape Town in two weeks’ time,” said Webb.
“The fact that we are in camp now to prepare for one thing and one thing only – the Rugby World Cup – really makes my heart beat faster.”
Webb’s measured integration back into the squad is similar to the team's preparations for the next couple of days.
“We came into camp yesterday and did the necessary medicals, and today we started with the field work,” she said.
“We are taking it slow for now, just to bring everyone up to speed and getting the understanding hundred percent. We have six players returning from the Springbok Women and we have a couple who played in the Challenger tournament, so it is about integrating as a team.”
Webb herself is running freely and pain-free, and she was full of praise for work done by the medical staff who got her fit again: “I think Nadia Clenzos (physiotherapist) did an amazing job, I was worried that I will not make it to Cape Town.
“To play in a World Cup in your own country is such an honour and I am now contesting for a place in that squad, which is a wonderful feeling.
“Also, after the lonely hours of rehab it is just wonderful to be back in a team environment again. It was great seeing everyone again, I have missed the banter and camaraderie,” Webb added.
The squad will continue with their preparations at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport until Monday 5 September, when they will move to Cape Town for the tournament. Training matches against China and Canada will be played next Tuesday and Thursday respectively.