Tshiremba Embracing Opportunities Presented By HSBC SVNS

 

In 2019, Maria Tshiremba watched her first rugby match live, the Varsity Cup Sevens fittingly won by the University of Johannesburg, as this was where the speedster from Magau village in Limpopo was starting to make a name for herself in athletics.

Tshiremba, then aged 24, participated in sprints and long jump, but barely a month later, intrigued by what she saw at Pirates Rugby Club in Johannesburg, she watched another match on television – the Rugby World Cup Final in Japan, where the Springboks famously beat England.

The fact that two of the fastest players on the field, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi, scored the tries that brought hope to the country resonated with Tshiremba, and she decided that she was going to give it a try.

Her original plan had to be shelved though when the COVID pandemic struck in early 2020, but when things returned to normal and rugby picked up again all around the country, the wing was quick to impress.

It wasn’t long before her talents were spotted and in 2022, Tshiremba made the Mastercard Golden Lions Women's squad for the season. Although the Joburg side, newly promoted to the Women’s Premier Division, struggled to adapt, it was clear that Tshiremba was going places.

It was no surprise then, when the Bulls Daisies contracted some of the best women’s players when they turned professional early last year, that Tshiremba moved north across the Jukskei River.

The 2023 season turned out as expected for the Pretoria team, with the Daisies proving too strong for all contenders and Tshiremba continuing her development on the wing.

She was invited to train with the Springbok Women's Sevens development squad as they started their campaign to not only qualify for HSBC SVNS via the Challenger Series but also the Olympic Games via the Rugby Africa Women's Sevens Cup.

It was at the latter in Monastir, Tunisia, where the 28-year-old Tshiremba made her national debut and showed that she was here to stay. She scored a vital try in the final of the tournament that secured the victory over Kenya and booked the South Africans a place to Paris 2024.

Two months ago, in Dubai in the opening match of HSBC SVNS 2024, it was Tshiremba again who blitzed away to score a double against New Zealand as the Springbok Women's Sevens team came to within a minute of toppling the defending series champions.

A week later, things did not go well in Cape Town and now, safely in Perth, Tshiremba is adamant that they will secure the needed results when the tournament starts on Friday.

“We had a good, honest discussion about the wrongs of Cape Town and worked hard to iron out those elements of play that held us back,” said Tshiremba.

“For me, it was a matter of defence, as I tackled poorly in Cape Town and that did not my team any favours. Yes, I am a wing and love nothing more than to go around people and score tries, but I also have other responsibilities on the field. That is one of the aspects I am very keen to improve on in Perth.”

Tshiremba said their participation in HSBC SVNS will be beneficial: “As a squad, we are improving all the time and all that knowledge we gain, we will feed back to others too.

“We have our goals this season, one of which is to finish in the top eight and secure next year's status as a core team. That means we need to win matches in our pool and progress into the Cup play-offs. We are giving ourselves every chance to do that here in Perth.”

In a late change to the squad before departure, Ayanda Malinga was unable to travel to Perth, with Shona-Leah Weston coming in as a replacement for what will be her first appearance in the series since 2015.

Revised Springbok Women’s Sevens squad for Perth (with HSBC SVNS caps and points):

Forwards:
#4 ⁠Zintle Mpupha (co-captain) - 6 tournaments; 40 points (8 tries)
#8 Shona-Leah Weston – 3 tournaments; 5 points (1 try)
#14 Simamkele Namba - 3 tournaments; 5 points (1 try)
#12 Liske Lategan - 5 tournaments; 10 points (2 tries)
#20 ⁠Kyla de Vries - 2 tournaments; 0 points
#13 ⁠Kemisetso Baloyi - 2 tournaments; 0 points
#18 ⁠Shiniqwa Lamprecht - 2 tournaments; 0 points

Backs:
#10 Mathrin Simmers (co-captain) - 15 tournaments, 35 points (7 tries)
#9 Nadine Roos - 7 tournaments; 122 points (18 tries, 16 conversions)
#7 Eloise Webb - 4 tournaments; 7 points (1 try, 1 conversion)
#5 Marlize de Bruin - 3 tournaments; 5 points (1 try)
#16 ⁠Maria Tshiremba - 2 tournaments; 15 points (3 tries)
#21 Byrhandrè Dolf - 1 tournament; 0 points