Rugby is for girls too

| Siyavuya Khaya
The Iqhayiya High School Girls’ Rugby Sevens team. From left to right: Ncediswa Mahinjana, Asavela Siswana, Zintle Nonkasana, Asanda Dudumashe, Thandile Mazwi, Zizipho Qhaba and Lihle Mzimkhulu. Photo by Bulumko Gana.

No matter that they lack proper equipment and they train on a coarse field rife with thorns, the Iqhayiya High Schools Girls’ Rugby team from Khayelitsha have plenty of spirit. And the school has been nominated in the Developing School Team of the Year category for the 2015 SA Sports Awards to be announced in Gauteng on 22 November.

The team is led by respected coach, Thembani Ngubelanga, a teacher at the school. The team was awarded the Best Developing School Team of the year in 2015 for their hard work and dedication in the Western Cape Sport Awards. This came after they won all their 12 league games in 2014, and when they were crowned as the South African champions in Bloemfontein at the South African Top Schools Championships in 2013.

Ngubelanga, who also coaches the Under-19 Western Province girls’ team, says while the team clinched the 2013 title, two of the players received individual awards. Ngubelanga was also selected as coach of the tournament.

“The player of the tournament in Bloemfontein was selected from my team and a top try was also selected from my team, which proves that hard work pays off,” he said, beaming.

The school is proud of its players; some have donned the Western Province jersey; four players were selected to play for Western Province Under-18 and went to Uitenhage last year; two others were part of the Provincial Under-16 team that flew to Durban.

In 2011, one player from the school was selected for trials in Amsterdam and Dubai; she currently plays for the Western Province Senior Girls’ Rugby Team.

But, says Ngubelanga, it is always an uphill battle for the team when it comes to financing their trips to play outside of the province. The players also need a certain diet to boost their muscles, but they can’t afford it.

Lihle Mzikhulu 17, who is a forward, wakes up at 5:30am and jogs before she goes to school. She says her position allows her to run with the ball and she has great speed; her team depends upon her to score and that makes her feel great. She says the team’s style of play is a combination of the South African and the New Zealand approach.

Her favourite rugby star is Bryan Habana; she admires of his great handling ability and his ability to punch through the defenders. She supports the Blue Bulls because, she says, they are one of the best teams. She watched the recent World Cup games on telelvision, wanting to draw on the skills they display. She hopes one day to be a professional, playing abroad, and wearing the colours of the girls’ national rugby team of South Africa. She thinks her team’s success comes about because they are dedicated and committed.

Zintle Nonkosana, 18, says she plays rugby to correct the impression that rugby is a dangerous sport that should only be played by boys. She says she hated netball.

“My parents never really wanted me to take part in rugby, saying that it is too dangerous for a girl … that it’s a sport designed for boys.”

“It is difficult for us to do physical training,” she says, “because we don’t have weights … We have to collect old car tyres and carry them in an attempt to build our biceps”.

Her team in fact trains with the boys. She eats samp and beans and pap for the carbohydrates, she says.

Nonkosana lives in an informal settlement. She says playing rugby keeps her away from unhealthy activities, and, thanks to her sport, she is no longer afraid of standing her ground, because rugby has boosted her confidence.

She says she never knew that a girl coming from Town Two could go places through participating in a sport, and one deemed only for boys.

Captain of the team, Thandile Mazwi, 17, who was part of the team that went to Durban, says she was thrilled when she was awarded best player of the tournament.

She says they are appealing to local government and business people to sponsor them with protective bras.

“I’m sad that the South African rugby union is not taking girls rugby seriously, and they are actually demoralising young girls,” said Mazwi.

TOPICS:  Sport

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