Mitchell’s Plain girls wing it to the top

2015-08-11 06:01
For the first time in its history, the Mitchell’s Plain area has produced three women’s provincial rugby players. Here are (in back, from left) Shoneez Sabatini, Shafiek Murphy (coach), Michaela Palmer and (in front) Leandi Smith. 


For the first time in its history, the Mitchell’s Plain area has produced three women’s provincial rugby players. Here are (in back, from left) Shoneez Sabatini, Shafiek Murphy (coach), Michaela Palmer and (in front) Leandi Smith. PHOTO: Earl

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The sport of rugby is flourishing in Mitchell’s Plain, but not in the way that you may think.

What started out as just a fledgling initiative a little less than six months old, has now flourished into a movement whereby, for the first time, three girls from the area have opened spots for themselves at provincial level.

The Princeton duo of Leandi Smith and Shoneez Sabatini, as well as Westridge High School’s Michaela Palmer, are representing WP at u.16 and u.18 levels respectively.

The Mitchell’s Plain regional team is coached by Shafiek Murphy, who is also from Princeton, and managed by Rabia Alexander.

“If you look at the girls’ region at the moment, our rugby is only five, six months old. At the moment we have three WP girls in our team. They just came back from nationals in Oudtshoorn and they won the nationals and Michaela’s team (WP u.18) won their nationals in Durban. Shoneez has (recently) been included in the u.16 team,” says Murphy.

Murphy insists that it wasn’t always easy getting the initiative off the ground, being a male coach coaching girls. He had to call on the likes of Alexander to help level the playing field.

“There was a call, there was a need for women’s rugby and because you are a male coach, you have to be very careful when it comes to women’s rugby. I then called in Rabia and she became the team manager for team Princeton,” says Murphy.

He says that the girls play both sevens and full matches and, depending on the event, the regions meet up at least once a month to take part in a festival, which has taken on a league format.

Team workAlexander did not believe she would end up being part of a women’s rugby team, but is thoroughly enjoying the experience.

“Our girls are doing excellently and the team work is great. First it was just Princeton against Westridge and all the other schools, but since we have combined, the love for the game is even better now that they are a combined team. I can only see our girls going forward with the rugby, (because) Western Province is offering a lot.

“The secret is the commitment and the coach is there for them as well as me. The girls know that if they have a problem they can come to me or they can go to Coach. It makes it easier for him, that I am a woman and a mother. If something goes wrong or if they get hurt, where Coach can’t touch them, then I am there to see where something is wrong, so it is amazing to be here,” says Alexander.

Shoneez (15) says rugby just became an overnight passion of hers and that she sees a future for herself in the sport.

“I just tried it out. Something just made me want to try it out. It was just about having fun, trying our best and doing it as a team. Rugby builds me as a person and I am doing it for my future. I want to give my mother a better life, because she is doing her best to provide for me, so I must do my best at school and what I have, I must do my best so that I can provide for her,” she says..

Michaela (16), meanwhile, started playing the sport after her classmates insisted she join them. She found the adrenalin rush she gets from playing is particularly addictive, while Leandi fell in love with the sport because she is sporty by nature.

“I first played touch rugby, but then WP coach Ramsay came to our school and introduced full contact rugby to us. I run a lot and I run fast, so I love scoring tries,” Leandi beams.

Murphy says future plans involve developing a high-performance group of players to feed and strengthen WP women’s rugby.

“I want to have 30 players and another squad of 30 we can feed off; that is what we want to do, we want the cycle to grow. By next year, when WP call on us again, we want to have between 6 and 10 WP girls, because the talent lies in Mitchell’s Plain.

“There is talent in Mitchell’s Plain, but it is just untapped.”

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