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New found passion for touch rugby in Khayelitsha

Banele Ncoyo passes the ball in a touch rugby match Harry Gwala High School, Khayelitsha. Photo by Siyabonga Kalipa.
Siyabonga Kalipa    

Khayelitsha learners braved the rainy weather to put in two hours of practice for their new found passion for touch rugby. For these primary and high school learners, bad weather is the least of their problems when it comes to playing sports.

The field they practise on is at Harry Gwala High School is not a rugby field, but the boys look excited as they make their own field with orange cones.

One of the coaches asks the boys to get ready as practice is about to start. The boys, still in school uniform, take off their school shoes and roll up their grey school trousers to knee length to ready for warm up.

The team is called Connect Rugby Development, because they haven’t decided on a proper name yet.

The boys are wearing socks because it is a cold day; with shoes the patches of grass get slippery. When they start running around the field you can’t help but see that almost all of their grey school socks have holes in the heels and toes.

9-year-old Banele Ncoyo, a grade 3 learner, said, “I have been watching rugby on TV. I decided to join this year when it was introduced at school. My favourite team is the Springboks and the player I look up to is Bryan Habana. I would love to be like him one day.”

The boys have only been playing touch rugby for seven weeks, but when watching them with the ball you’d think they’ve been playing all their lives.

Chima Eze, 14, a grade 8 learner and a skilful player, said, “My family is happy that I’m playing sports because they know if I’m not at home I’m not on the streets. My dream is to play for the Springboks one day, and when that happens, it will not just be good for me, but my family will benefit as well.”


Boys take each other on at touch rugby practice Harry Gwala High School, Khayelitsha. Photo by Siyabonga Kalipa.

The type of touch rugby the boys are playing is 6-phase attack, where one team gets six chances to attack the opposition, unless they drop the ball.

Team Captain Ricardo Nobangela, 13, said, “I started playing rugby this year. I wanted to try it out and see if I like it, and I loved it, because it was not hard to learn how to play. My parents are happy that I play touch rugby because it’s not as physical as 15s rugby.”

Murray Ingram, a team coach, said, “Touch teaches the boys the fundamentals of rugby. It is the first level for them. We want the kids to know the game. We are playing in a league called IN 2 Touch SA League in Claremont and the boys are doing very well.”

Ingram said, “Working with the boys I got to understand the poverty most people live under. The reason some are practising in their school uniforms is because they don’t have shorts to play with. Some boys won’t pitch up on match days, because they don’t have boots and feel embarrassed. But we are doing all we can to help the boys.”

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