The Springbok Women are perfectly happy to sail under the radar at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and prefer not to get into the pre-tournament hype of the global showpiece event of the women's game.
That is the view of Springbok Women No 8 Aseza Hele as the number of days to their opening game against France in Auckland on Saturday can now be counted on one hand.
Hele was speaking after an entertaining welcoming event in Auckland which highlighted the diverse nature of the women's game with 12 teams from North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and of course hosts New Zealand in attendance.
It was clear that there are massive expectations of the Black Ferns of New Zealand, who had dominated previous Rugby World Cups and are the defending champions, and England, who are on a 26-Test winning streak. The French are, as always, considered the dark horse in the race, while the first-time entry of Fiji created much excitement at the opening event.
The fact that all of England, France and Fiji are in Pool C with South Africa resulted in a fairly low-key introduction of the team in green and gold and that is just the way they prefer it, said Hele.
“We would like to come into the tournaments as the underdogs. Others might not rank or rate us to win the World Cup, but we know what we are capable of,” said the 27-year-old player from Boland Dames and Hermanus Rugby Club.
“We are a sisterhood here and we support each other. We know each other’s stories and journeys and know what it took to made it to this point, so we will definitely support each other and would implore the people back home to do the same.
“We want to show to them what we are capable of, but for them to see that, they must get up early for the match against France,” Hele added with a broad smile.
Known as “Blommie” to her friends and team-mates, Hele made it clear that they are not looking for sympathy, but just support from back home.
“We are here to play for you, the people of South Africa, after all,” said Hele, who has played 13 Tests since making her debut against Wales in 2018, but missed last November's tour to Europe, which included an encounter against France in Vannes.
"I have never played against France, but I have watched enough footage of them now. I honestly think we will be able to put out a very competitive match against them.
“As underdogs, we have the freedom to go out and play. We believe in what we are doing and if we get the game plan right come Saturday, we will be doing good.”
The wet conditions the team encountered in New Zealand so far are not what they are used to, but Hele said they have to adapt, and quickly at that.
“We have no choice but to adapt and if we do so we will be ok. We trained against Scotland last Saturday and it was very wet,” she said.
“We battled in the beginning, but once we changed to suit the conditions, we did well. I personally prefer it when the game is tighter, as I love to carry the ball and take it up. If you can do that and keep the ball, it is good momentum we can use to play from.”
A solid performance by Hele will be important if the Springbok Women want to stay in the game, and that is a motivating factor for the loose forward: “I will bring my best, definitely. We will accept the challenge for this game.”
During the welcoming event, World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin said they are committed to expand the women's game to new levels.
“The development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade,” said Gilpin.
“Our mission is a sport where every girl and boy have equal opportunity. Where targeted investment in the women’s game drives transformational change. Where we have strong and sustainable global competitions, growth and retention plans at every level.
“Rugby World Cup 2021 promises to be a very special event, which will springboard the sport into a golden era of opportunity, accelerating the phenomenal rise of women’s rugby on a global basis. I wish the best of luck to all teams competing in this very special event.”