Women’s rugby on the up

2014-09-26 00:00

IT is no secret that South African women’s rugby needs a lot of work, but Durban’s College Rovers women’s team are making their own way towards building the sport for women competitors.

The Rovers women won both the KwaZulu-Natal ladies’ 15s league title and sevens tournament this year — making it a clean sweep for the Berea side.

Despite the result, coach Tami Sutherland believes that the sport needs a huge amount of help to really work at a provincial and national level.

Sutherland and Rovers team manager Cynthia Field have been involved in women’s rugby at the club since the early 2000s.

“I’ve been around since Saru introduced the week-long annual ladies’ provincial tournament. We made a team around 2001 and started playing at Rovers.”

Sutherland and her charges quickly found themselves competing at the interprovincial tournaments, because there were no other women’s teams to play in the area.

The Rovers women’s team made the finals of the competition in 2002, and went down to the Falcons, who are now the Blue Bulls’ women’s side.

After almost a decade of playing and coaching, Sutherland took a step back in 2010 after becoming frustrated with the lack of progress and development of women’s rugby.

She took up the rugby baton again this year, and was named coach of the Rovers team with Field at her side.

“It was really an experimental year — perhaps it was because the players didn’t know us. We had to develop that club tradition, which is not really there in women’s rugby.

“It could also be that the girls are used to male coaches and that authority,” Sutherland said.

She also believes the fact that some of the players come from disadvantaged backgrounds brought the team together to form a “sisterhood”.

After winning both the league and the sevens tournament, Sutherland hopes that they can organise more fixtures next year.

The very fact that Rovers produced scrumhalf Tayla Kinsey, who went to the Women’s World Cup with the Springboks earlier this year, is testament to the attitude in the team and the talent the province has.

“It’s a huge boost for the club to have someone like her, and it sets a standard,” she said.

She laments that more of her players haven’t made the step up to provincial level yet, but says that opportunities are limited.

Looking ahead, Sutherland and Field hope to see the women’s league expand. Sutherland also encouraged more women to try out the sport.

“I have played almost every sport you can, and rugby is a great team sport. It’s also amazing because women of any shape or size can play. It’s a good sport to play to get stronger and fitter, and to build self-confidence.”

She also believes that taking up rugby gives women a chance to represent South Africa at the Olympics, Rugby World Cup and sevens circuit.

“The funding and structures are there — it’s about getting the opportunity and coaching to get to that level.”

Next year, Rovers are aiming to win the league again.

They also hope to establish a schools’ rugby development programme for girls next year.

“We are also looking at starting U16 and U18 girls’ teams at the club,” Sutherland added.

If you are interested in getting involved in women’s rugby, e-mail Sutherland at tsutherland@telkomsa.net

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