The South African women’s rugby team leave for London on Wednesday for their World Cup warm-up tour and nobody is more excited – or has a better story to tell – than Pretoria resident Cindy Cant.
Nobody has waited longer than Cant, or held on to their dream for so long, to play for the Springboks. The 31-year-old Bulls captain will be making her debut for South Africa after a dozen years of top-flight rugby.
“It is a dream come true and very unexpected. I’ve always dreamt of playing in the Green and Gold, but it’s been very hard with a few ups and downs. Every time you see the men singing the national anthem, some part inside of you wants to do the same thing. That dream is always there, it feels like something you haven’t accomplished,” Cant told The Pretoria News at the Springbok women’s training camp at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.
Cant has had to endure awful World Cup disappointment before. In 2006 she was widely acknowledged as one of the top centres in women’s provincial rugby but missed out on selection for the Springboks; in 2010 she made the squad, but had to withdraw because she had just started a new job.
“Four years back, around this time, I was part of the squad, but then I had to withdraw. There were long tears cried then and I had to come to grips with the thought that playing for the Springboks had passed me by. So I was a bit shocked when I got chosen this time!” Cant said.
Springbok women’s coach Lawrence Sephaka sees Cant’s place in the team as being at fullback and the Richard’s Bay product was given a window of opportunity in that position during two trials games last month.
“I’m usually a number 13 but the coach is using me at 15, where I started my rugby many moons back. I also played fullback in the two trials games and I thought I had nothing to lose, so I just gave it my all. I could hardly walk afterwards!” Cant said.
The former Tuks student says she kept playing high-level rugby, despite the sacrifices it has forced her to make as an amateur sport in this country, because of her “passion and love for the game”.
“From when I was very young, I used to watch with my dad and play with the kids in the street in Richards Bay. It was our ‘gang’ and we played all sorts of rugby,” Cant said.
There was a moment in the training camp when she realised just how desperate she was to play for the Springboks.
“We had a session with a psychologist and he told us to picture ourselves standing in France with our Springbok jerseys on. I was just crying and crying because I wanted it so much,” Cant revealed.
Her Springbok selection was also celebrated by her colleagues at the fashion school where she is the vice-principal.
“They were very happy for me and threw me a surprise party with green cupcakes!” Cant said.
Her stability at the back, good kicking skills, strong defence and ball skills was the sort of all-round package coach Sephaka could not ignore and a long-awaited call-up to the national team was the gift for Cant from the former Springbok prop.