They are often called “pocket rockets” or it’s said that “dynamite comes in small packages”, but it is also safe to say that Cheslin Kolbe, Selvyn Davids and Kwagga Smith are as much respected for their massive courage as they are for their exploits in a game where size and physicality are the norm, and their defiance of that.
That approach is why Simamkele Namba, who plays in the forwards for the Springbok Women's Sevens, ranks her compatriots as inspirations in her own journey as an international rugby player, with very much the same lofty ambitions they had when starting out their careers.
And while Namba, at 1.52m and 63kg, is outsized by most if not all in the 2024 HSBC SVNS, she will not be out-hearted or outworked, the 25-year-old insisted. There is just too much to play for, too much trust to be justified and in her case, the physical well-being of siblings to be taken care of.
“I really want to reward the coaches for the trust they put in me by selecting me and allowing me to represent my family and country all around the world and against the best sevens players on the planet,” said Namba.
“We have a good system in place, and we have seen that it will bring results when we apply that correctly.
"We fought hard to qualify for the World Series and won that right by never giving up and winning the Challenger Series. The same applied when we had to come from behind in the Olympic qualifiers in Tunisia, and now we are going to Paris 2024.
“The next challenge for us is to be in the top eight when the world series concludes and we are determined to achieve that objective, even though we joined the series ranked 12th.”
The Blazeboks are preparing for their next HSBC SVNS assignments, in Vancouver (23-25 February) and Los Angeles (1-3 March), and for Namba and her fellow trailblazers, departure next Saturday cannot come soon enough.
“The belief is there, the talent is there and the experience, which we lacked because we were not a core team in the past, is growing in every tournament we play,” she said.
“We are also blessed with a wonderful coaching staff and their knowledge of the game is making us better all the time. I can honestly say I am a much better player now than I was a year ago. And a better person, as my confidence grew.”
For Namba, who represented the Springbok Women at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2022, there are a number of “why's” in her approach, which have seen her scoring some crucial tries in recent matches.
“We arrived to face teams with big-name players, but although they are respected, I don't see them as anything other than just an opponent,” said Namba, who plays on the wing in fifteens.
“I have always loved the physicality of rugby and making tackles, but sevens also affords one space to exploit. Our system allows you to exploit the gaps when they open up and so far, so good for me.
“Coach Renfred (Dazel) often reminds me of my strengths as an attacker and that I should use that ability, so whenever I see an opportunity, I try to use those skills.”
Namba's rugby exploits allowed her some comforts in life, with the most satisfying building a house for her mother and siblings in Alice, Eastern Cape.
“It is nice to know that while I am travelling the world they have a roof over their heads and food to eat. I play to make them proud as well and they are very happy for me,” she beamed.
With stops in North America and the Far East awaiting in the remainder of the series before the final tournament in Madrid, Namba and the rest of the team see the challenges ahead as possibilities.
“You should never give up,” she said. “We've come a long way as a team, but the journey is not done, not on a personal level or as a team. We know we are getting better and the results will show that. There are a lot of reasons to be proud of who we are as a team and we strive to make everyone feel the same way.”
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