Posted on Tuesday, 17 Oct 2023
The Springbok Women are under no illusions about Italy and their abilities when they face the European side in their second WXV 2 clash at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Friday afternoon.
For experienced Springbok Women prop Yonela Ngxingolo, the match – which kicks off at 16h30, with tickets available here – can’t come soon enough, as the South Africans are ready to go again after a close call against Scotland, ranked number nine on the World Rugby rankings.
Scotland defeated South Africa 31-17 in the opening WXV 2 match in Stellenbosch last Friday, and this week a higher-ranked opponent await.
The Italians – who beat Japan in their WXV opener – are ranked eighth, indicating that there will be no relenting in the pressure associated with playing a top-10 team for South Africa, who dropped one place to 13th.
However, according to Ngxingolo, they are excited about the opportunity.
“All of us knew that the WXV was going to be tough, with four of the six teams ranked better than us and playing in regular competitions,” said Ngxingolo.
“We knew Scotland would lay down some markers for us and that we were going to struggle to perform to all of them. Italy will do the same, but we are focussing on getting our plans and strategy going.”
The 25-year-old, who made her Test debut against Wales in 2018 and has amassed 26 caps, said the self-belief in the team is growing after some strong phases in the Scotland match.
“We did ourselves no favours at times, making silly mistakes and not converting our opportunities,” she said.
“In the last couple of minutes, with us trailing by seven points and chasing the game, we had four opportunities that went astray and that was frustrating because we were our own worst enemy in that regard. But we learned from that and will be better when we play Italy.”
Ngxingolo said they took note of the tempo with which Italy play the game: “We need to counter that with our physicality and make sure we break their tempo.
“They are a difficult team to break down as we saw in their win over Japan, but we have a plan and will execute that on Friday. We are improving game by game as we get used to the intensity and tempo of top ten teams.”
In recent months, Ngxingolo, who can play either side of the scrum, has been used as a finisher, a role that she does not mind fulfilling for the team.
“It is not about me and what I want, it is what is best for the team,” she said.
“At this stage, it is fine for me to come onto the field and lift the tempo and finish strong. Coach Louis (Koen) is using the bench to good effect, and I am happy to bring my skills to the game in the second half. If called on to start, nothing will really change for me though as I know what is expected from me either way.”
Koen will name his squad on Wednesday.