That is the view of Mathrin Simmers, one of the more experienced squad members who is also the team’s co-captain, as they toil away daily at their Stellenbosch base, preparing for the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.
The two-legged tournament will be hosted in Stellenbosch on the weekends of 20-22 and 28-30 April, and Simmers said this provides them with an advantage they have to utilise.
“Playing at home should always be an advantage, as you are familiar with local conditions and come the Challenger Series, we hope to have some proper crowd support as well,” added Simmers, the most experienced squad member with 44 matches played over 15 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments over a decade of competing at the highest level.
The winner of the 12-team Challenger Series for women will gain the ultimate prize of automatic promotion to the 2024 World Series, something the Springbok Women's Sevens achieved once, way back in the 2014/15 season.
Simmers was part of the squad that represented South Africa in Dubai, Sao Paulo, Atlanta, Langford, London and Amsterdam, but unfortunately they were relegated after one season.
“We have to get back onto the World Series, that is truly the biggest stage for us, where we can play against the best players in the world,” the 34-year-old sweeper said.
“Ultimately, that is what it is all about for any rugby player, to be able to compete against the best.”
The process of rebuilding the team and programme in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is taking time, but for Simmers, real improvement and progress are being made, with coach Renfred Dazel getting the best out of the squad.
“Last year, when we started up again, we had the Rugby World Cup Sevens in mind, but in the end we played in six tournaments,” said Simmers.
“We did share players with the Springbok Women as well as they were preparing for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and as such, our depth was exposed, and we needed to bring in a lot of new, inexperienced players.
“This time around, we have a dedicated group of players and all of them are experienced and capable.”
The format of the Challenger Series, with two tournaments played and a log determining the overall winner, is better, feels Simmers, who also played in four Test matches for the Springbok Women.
“I recall us losing in the final of the qualifying round in Hong Kong in 2018 and how gutted we were as we underperformed in that crucial game against China after playing well until that point,” she said. “This time around, you have two tournaments and consistency will be key. I think we are close to that.”
The squad will get to stretch their legs for the first time since the HSBC Cape Town Sevens when they play in the Hermanus Sevens next weekend and Simmers is already looking forward to that outing: “We have been working hard on fundamentals and decision-making over the last month or so and that tournament will provide us live experiences to execute. That will be a good yardstick for us as a squad.”
Simmers, who has played in three Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments, feels the Challenger Series will give the squad the opportunity to showcase their abilities and growth: “We are playing in front of our supporters and fellow South Africans and we will be determined to reward them for their support and attendance.”
The Springbok Women's Sevens training squad currently in Stellenbosch: Marlize de Bruin, Rights Mkhari, Zintle Mpupha, Ayanda Malinga, Sizophila Solontsi (all Bulls Daisies), Asisipho Plaatjies, Mathrin Simmers, Snenhlanhla Shozi, Eloise Webb (Border Ladies), Zandile Masuku (SWD Eagirls), Donelle Snyders, Felicia Jacobs, Simamkele Namba (all DHL Western Province).