SA Rugby manager of women’s rugby Mahlubi Puzi says its girls’ programme is beginning to bear fruit. THEO GARRUN reports.
Speaking at the U16 and U18 Girls Youth Weeks that are running simultaneously at Jeppe High School for Boys in Johannesburg, Puzi said it was no longer possible to deny that rugby is a game that is gaining popularity among girls in the country, or that girls cannot play rugby that is skilful and entertaining.
‘There are 16 U16 and 16 U18 teams in action in Joburg this week, and they have been selected out of the steadily growing programmes that the unions are running,’ he told SARugbymag.co.za.
The first tentative steps were taken in 2001 and the game has grown since then to the extent where talented player programmes are now run in both age divisions. The plan is to select teams to play against international opposition in the near future.
‘We staged our first U16 interprovincial tournament in 2011, and the U18s have been going since 2015,’ Puzi said. ‘The unions run programmes and competitions involving school teams in their areas, and they have established youth clubs to help with the transition into senior rugby.’
The important thing about tournaments on the go at the moment, according to Puzi, is that they give the game exposure.
‘There is a long history of women’s rugby in some areas, in others, it is still quite new,’ he said. ‘These players now go back to their communities and spread the word that rugby is no longer the preserve of men only, or only played by certain parts of the population.’
Player numbers are growing in all the provinces and, with a number of senior women’s international players getting involved in the coaching structures, the standards are rising.
‘It’s an exciting time for women’s rugby. There is a lot of talent on display and when these players move through into the senior ranks we can only go from strength to strength,’ Puzi concluded.
Photo: Theo Garrun