Fort Hare rugby coach cries foul

2011-04-23 16:32

On the last day of January the University of Fort Hare made a historic entrance onto the wider South African rugby stage when it hosted Wits University in the first Varsity Shield match.

For those present at the match, televised live to an audience that probably did not know much about the Eastern Cape university’s long and proud rugby history, this was the start of something great – the first step on the way to qualifying for the hugely successful Varsity Cup next year.

But three months after the last TV camera van disappeared over the horizon, Fort Hare rugby has taken two steps backward and head coach Elliot Fana is a frustrated man.

After winning just two of their eight matches to finish bottom of the five-team competition, Fana says his team has faced numerous problems including a player exodus and lack of support from the university authorities.

“I take my hat off to the Varsity Cup and SA Rugby for this wonderful initiative, but I foresee failure for Fort Hare in next year’s Varsity Shield,” Fana told City Press.

“The university must see rugby as an issue of national importance. It is the dream of every black man out there to have our rugby team playing in the Varsity Cup, but everyone thinks everything will just simply fall into place, and it hasn’t.”

Fana says the Varsity Shield gave his players, as well as the university, much-needed exposure, but that the university authorities have done little to keep the flame burning.

“Our sports department is limping badly and the welfare of the players is not good,” he said. “Our players have been scouted by other universities and provinces.

“We are very grateful to the Varsity Cup as a company for giving us financial support, which we are utilising well, but the support from the institution itself is lacking. They are fixing the tennis courts, yet there are no tennis players at Fort Hare!”

Fana, who has since led the team to two victories out of three matches in the local Border Super League, said the university authorities were aware of the situation, but to date no assistance had been offered.

Fort Hare’s head of sports, Loyiso Lange, said: “I find Mr Fana’s statements really staggering and a bit of a shock. Rugby is the number one code at Fort Hare and it is giving us a lot of exposure. Where we are able to assist rugby, we do. This is an institutional club we’re talking about.” 

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