Playing a role to transform SA rugby

2014-11-09 15:00

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Transformation in sport, particularly rugby, is always in the headlines. It’s all well and good to talk about it but, oddly enough, not often is the question asked: what exactly is being done about it?

Not nearly enough, if statistics from government’s pilot programme last year are anything to go by.

Facilities are a problem and simply having access to the sport is a massive stumbling block to getting young black children on the rugby field.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. And where there’s a way, there are usually a few inspiring people who are trying to make a difference.

Meet Yanga Qinga and Murray Ingram, two young men determined to do their part for the future of transforming South African rugby. They run Connect Community Development, a programme that has been operating in Khayelitsha for about five years.

They focus on educational support, youth development and enterprise development, and this year began focusing on rugby.

The project has helped 40 children in the community not just learn the basics of the sport, but play it competitively.

The group already had a chess programme in place and in April they began teaching children rugby. For six weeks, a group of Under-8 and Under-9 boys were given a crash course and entered in Spur’s Mini Rugby Tournament. They were victorious in one of their two games.

Following the success with younger children, the project was extended to the Under-13 boys at Harry Gwala school. Qinga and Ingram entered the children into the In 2 Touch league at Villagers in Claremont.

“The team is called the Connect Rugby Development team. In time, we’ll leave it to the players to choose a name,” Qinga says.

The teams play once a week and have practice sessions on weekdays. Qinga and Ingram are hoping they can extend the programme to girls and there will be a mixed team in the near future. They recently fielded their first girl when they played against Bishops.

“We ran them really close. They narrowly beat us by three tries to two,” Qinga says.

When transformation is debated, it’s often said that black children “aren’t interested” in rugby, but the two men have found the opposite. Recruiting players has been easy – children in the area are happy simply to have something to do.

“We’ve been working with the schools for some time through our mass participation programmes. Some of these children are already in our chess programme. The scholars are always looking for something to do and they simply answered the call to try something new. One or two have a rudimentary understanding of the game and the rest are happy to be expressing themselves in a new avenue,” Qinga explains.

Some of the children don’t have even the most basic equipment like shorts, jerseys or socks. Parents can’t buy them. But the team have used social media and have been assisted by the In 2 Touch league.

From next year, when the teams progress from touch to contact rugby, they’ll need gum guards, for example – something children in the community cannot afford.

“Our transport costs are R600 a week. Depending on what vehicle we manage to get, we’re lucky to take eight players out of a possible 12.”

Food for the players is sponsored by the pair’s business incubation project, iCafe. Next year, they’ll enter the teams into the Western Province schools rugby league.

– Daily Maverick

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