A woman’s take on SA rugby

2011-12-14 00:00

WHEN this book was offered for review in the office, I was one of the few women to respond “yes” to the question posed by the books’ editor: ”Do any of you ladies like rugby?”

I’m a huge fan of the Sharks, watched every game (well nearly every one) in the recent Rugby World Cup, and when I lived in England I could be found on the side of the pitch shouting support for my husband’s club rugby team.

What fascinated me about this book was the author’s very different look at what is a male­dominated world and sport.

McGregor spent some three-and-a-half years getting up close and personal with the game, kicking things off by spending a season with the Ikey Tigers rugby team at the University of Cape Town. It proved to be a far more emotional task than she expected because she bonded closely with both the players and coaching staff.

She also travelled to the Eastern Cape, the home of African rugby players in South Africa, and learnt about the difficulties faced by the province in keeping its best players in the sport.

Top school-boy players are ­often lost because they aren’t signed by the big unions — the Blue Bulls, the Sharks, the Lions and Western Province — and there isn’t a good formal structure for the game post-school in the Eastern Cape.

Her research also took her to Loftus Versveld, where she spoke to players and coaches, and found out how Heyneke Meyer turned the Blue Bulls franchise around and made it into a Super 15 winning one.

Her final port of call was Western Province/the Stormers, which at the time was working hard to win the 2010 Currie Cup — another emotional journey which ended with the team’s loss in the final to the Sharks.

McGregor wasn’t an ardent rugby fan at the start of the book, but she admits that after her three-and-a-half-year journey, she got close to its very heart, and the result of those efforts is a fascinating read.

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