Women’s First Division – Huge Anticipation As Season Kicks Off

The SA Rugby Women's First Division kicks off in three major rugby centers of the country on Saturday with all squads well aware of the possibilities of this journey for the team and individual players in the next couple of months.

The 2023 version of the tournament saw eventual champions, Free State Women, promoted into the Premier Division, and a handful of individual players getting call-ups into national squads, with Free State’s Sikholiwe (Sne) Mdletshe earning Test caps for the Springbok Women, and Shannon-Lee Windvogel (SWD Eagirls) drafted into the Springbok Women's Sevens squad.

There will be no promotion/relegation in 2024, but for Griquas Women (against Pumas Women), Limpopo Blue Bulls Women (versus Leopards Women) and Valke Rugby Union Women (facing SWD Eagles Women) a good start in front of their home crowd could establish a solid support base and momentum for the tournament, which will culminate in semi-finals on 3 August, and the final a week later on 10 August.

The Griffons Women, who will be coached by the experienced Shamila Louw and former Griffons stalwart, Tertius Maarman, assisting her, have a bye in the opening round.

The first round of action will start an exciting weekend of rugby in Kimberley, Polokwane and Kempton Park and with no clear front runners at this stage of the tournament, some intriguing matches are on offer.

In Kimberley, Griquas, again be coached by Ronald Maarman, with Claudia Francke (forwards) and Coerispa Links (backs) assisting him, will welcome Pumas Women to Kimberley Rugby Club. The Pumas Women will start the competition with a new head coach in Devril Boucher, who has been involved with the team in a variety of roles in the past. He will be assisted by Sbusiso Ngomane and the duo would love to start on a winning note.

Limpopo Blue Bulls Women will again be a strong contender in 2024. They have retained most of their playing squad from last year and head coach, Artwell Makhubela, is in charge again. He will be assisted by Andile Dzavana (backs) and Bryan Mashigo (forwards). They will face another regular contender in the Leopards, a finalist two years ago.

Leopards Head Coach Franklin Jackson will be without his assistant, Jackie Kriel, for their trip north as she is currently with the SA Students Sevens team abroad, but will have comfort of former Springbok Women wing, Verana van Heerden, to bring massive experience and calmness to his young squad.

The Eagirls will enter the tournament as likely favourites, but the Valke Women cannot be underestimated. The SWD side has been a top three side consistently and will again have their regular stalwarts available. Elize Arendse is back as head coach and she will be assisted by Nicolene Barendse, who played for the Eagirls till last year.

Valke Head Coach, Catherine Lowane and assistant, Collen Mabasa, will have a plan to combat the free-flowing attack from their visitors for sure.

The first round of fixtures (all on Saturday, 15 June 2024):

Griquas Women vs Pumas Women
Venue: Kimberley Rugby Klub, Kimberley
Kick-off: 10h30
Referee: Cammy Dyers

Valke Women vs SWD Eagirls
Venue: Barnard Stadium, Kempton Park
Kick-off: 12h15
Referee: Siyanda Pikoli

Limpopo Blue Bulls Women vs Leopards Women
Venue: University of Limpopo, Polokwane
Kick-off: 13h00
Referee: Excellent Mnkomo