WesternProvince loose forward Sinazo Mcatshulwa is slowly approaching her goal of representing South Africa at next year’s IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup, in New Zealand.
She is part of the 35-member squad that was invited to a six-week training camp at Stellenbosch’s high performance centre. The camp, which kicked off on Monday October 19, will run until Sunday November 29.
It also forms part of the squad’s preparations for the world cup, and Mcatshulwa, 24, from Langa, said spirits were high, as everyone was ready to raise their hand to be chosen. The national team booked their spot in next year’s international spectacle after convincing performances during last year’s qualifiers.
Mcatshulwa has come a long way in her career, from Langa Stadium, where she played club rugby, to City Park in Athlone, where most provincial matches take place, to international arenas.
Her immediate dream is to wear the national jersey at the world cup. And, as things stand, she’s not far off.
Having made her test debut against Wales away, in October 2018, she knows exactly what’s expected of her. And, on top of that, she has represented the country in the sevens format.
“I have been part of the national set up since 2017. That year I was part of the South African invitational side that went to England,” she said.
“I made my Springbok test debut the following year against Wales, also away. We didn’t win that match but it laid a foundation. I got a taste of what test rugby is about. It was a big eye-opener for most of us.
“It gave us an idea of how big a step it is, in terms of pressure, and the level of performance, from provincial rugby.”
She went on to earn seven more test caps before the outbreak of Covid-19 brought everything to a standstill. Mcatshulwa said the subsequent lockdown meant the players had to be more disciplined.
This, she said, was because they had to follow their programmes, with little or no supervision.
“That’s the thing about being part of the national set up. You learn to handle yourself on and off the field. I know exactly how to handle myself when I walk in the streets of Langa. At the national team, you learn to be a better all-round human being, not just a better player.”
Mcatshulwa said she cut her rugby teeth at Langa-based Busy Bees RFC 10 years ago. She’s still a member of the club.
“I was one of the first people to start a women’s side at the club. It was a few of us back then but women’s rugby has grown big time.
“Of course there were women who played rugby before us. They mentored us and, in turn, we are mentoring the young up-and-coming generation,” she said.
“I can safely say Busy Bees RFC played a big role in shaping who I am as a rugby player. Luckily I am a listener, so it was easy to understand what’s expected of me in order to grow as a player.”
She was also quick to note that there are still a number of challenges faced by women in rugby, especially at grassroots level.
“That means we, as senior players, have to nurture the younger ones. The problem with this is that sometimes it clashes with our own career programmes. But, it’s still worth it, we have to take care of the younger ones,” she said.
She also had advice for those who didn’t make it to the 35-member camp in Stellenbosch. “It is not the end of the world, there is still a long way to go between now and the start of the world cup next year.
“Continue working hard, you never know what will happen between now and next year. Anything is possible.”