Head coach Louis Koen tweaks Springbok Women for USA Test

Head coach Louis Koen tweaks Springbok Women for USA Test

Springbok Women head coach Louis Koen has recalled Aseza Hele to the starting pack for Saturday's Test against the USA in London, while also making two changes to the side that started against Spain.

Hele comes in for Anathi Qolo at No 8, while DHL Western Province flyer Asiphe Mayaba returns to the team on the right wing for the first time since May last year, taking over from Maceala Samboya.

Koen also promoted Mary Zulu from the bench to start at flyhalf, with Byrhandrè Dolf moving to fullback for this match. Chuma Qawe, who started at fullback against Spain, swop places with Zulu.

It will be Zulu's second start at flyhalf, with the UKZN student playing as a utility back since her debut last year. Mayaba, who scored five tries in two matches at the 2023 Rugby Africa Women's Cup in Madagascar, is back after a long injury spell that resulted in her missing the WXV 2 tournament last year.

Hele, who plays for the Harlequins Women in the Allianz Premiership in England, was not involved against Spain and will be keen to impress against the USA, a team the Springbok Women last played in 2013.

In another change on the bench, Nomsa Mokwai, will be involved for the first time since 2021, with the utility forward taking over the finisher's role from Samantha Els.

Nolusindiso Booi will lead the team again in her 42nd Test, extending her record for the Springbok Women.

Koen said Hele, who last played for the team against Italy in WXV 2 in October, has been fully integrated back into the pack and will be ready to go: "We were very pleased with the way Anathi Qolo played in her debut, but always wanted to get Aseza involved and she will start against the USA. She integrated well in the last couple of weeks and is ready to go."

Zulu will also get valuable time at pivot.

"Mary gets a chance to start and I am confident that she will use the opportunity well," said Koen. "She has a bright future and she will benefit from this, as will the team.

"Asiphe comes in for Maceala on the wing in another rotation. She has made a good recovery from injury and deserves an opportunity on this tour."

Koen said Mokwai's return is also important: "She played four tests and although the last one was a couple of seasons ago (2022), Nomsa can still add value to our team, something we believe she will show on Saturday."

Koen welcomed the opportunity to play against the USA.

"We want to play top-10 sides as they will test us with regards to skill and intensity," he said.

"The USA is a fast, mobile unit and they have experienced players in their team. For us to improve, we need to be tested and our shortcomings exposed. That will only happen if you are up against the best sides in the world.

"It is a nice way to finish our tour, we have set good building blocks in place for the Africa Cup, our pathway to the Rugby World Cup, and this match is the final opportunity to get our system tested and improved."

The Springbok Women played the USA five times since their first clash in 2009, with the last of those in 2013. South Africa have a sole victory, secured in Ontario in 2011. The Eagles are ninth on the world rankings and South Africa 12th.

Springbok Women - 15. Byrhandrè Dolf, 14 Asiphe Mayaba, 13 Veroeshka Grain, 12 Piwokuhle Nyanda, 11 Jakkie Cilliers, 10 Mary Zulu, 9 Tayla Kinsey, 8. Aseza Hele, 7 Sinazo Mcatshulwa, 6 Sinelitha Noxeke, Vainah Ubisi, 4. Nolusindiso Booi, Babalwa Latsha, 2 Lindelwa Gwala, 1 Xoliswa Khuzwayo.

Replacements: 16 Roseline Botes, 17 Sanelisiwe Charlie, 18 Aliyah Tchogna-Njamen, 19 Danelle Lochner, 20. Nomsa Mokwai, 21. Rumandi Potgieter, 22. Aphiwe Ngwevu, 23. Chuma Qawe.

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