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Rugby may be the focus on the field at the Border Women’s Youth Training Centre (YTC) in East London, but off the field the programme’s key focuses include social upliftment and offering young girls an opportunity to live balanced lives.

The Border YTC is one of eight SA Rugby YTC’s located throughout the country with the purpose of bolstering the women’s game by developing a bigger pool of players and grooming them for top-class rugby. The other YTC centres are based at the Blue Bulls Limpopo, Blue Bulls, Border, Eastern Province, Griquas, South Western Districts and Western Province rugby unions.

Through the programme players from the ages of 14 to 18 years participate in regular training sessions and matches and have access to conditioning and healthy eating programmes.

The Border YTC, based at the BCM Stadium in East London, covers five districts – Buffalo City, OR Tambo, Amathole, Alfrend Nzo and Joe Ngqabi – and has 70 regular participants. The centre hosts two squad training sessions a week, with individual skills sessions offered on alternate days.

Through the programme, the YTC has introduced 558 new players to rugby since the centre’s inception in 2015.

“For us the first step is to offer the participants something positive to do through playing rugby,” said YTC coach Zolisa Naka.

“But we make it our mission to look beyond the participants’ skills and assist them in any way possible. With most of our recruits coming from informal settlements, villages and townships, many players in the programme have made rugby their escape from troubled backgrounds.”

Naka emphasises the importance of the programme on the field: “Our passion for the game runs deep, and we see it is a tool to reach out to the next generation.

“Apart from introducing rugby to children at a young age and educating them about the sport, nutrition and fitness, it allows them to develop leadership and a number of other skills. It also offers volunteers an opportunity to get involved in administration, which offers them a sense of ownership in the game.”

The YTC training sessions focus on the core skills of the game, including ball handling, tackling and kicking among others, while they also work on speed, power, strength and endurance at their gym sessions.

With the Border women’s teams having established themselves as top contenders at all levels of the game in South Africa – with their senior team finishing the Women’s Interprovincial Competition as the runners up this year, and the champions from 2013 to 2016, and their U18 YTC team finishing their annual competition as the winners and U16 team as the runners up – Naka was pleased with the strides made in the last two years.

“We are very pleased with the growth we are achieving and the quality of the players we have in the programme,” said Naka.

“This shows our dedication to the YTC, as well as the level of commitment from the personnel and the players. Our goal in the next few years is to increase the number of active recruits in the programme to 3000, and we will continue to put in the hard yards to achieve that.

“Women’s Rugby is growing steadily worldwide, and with the re-introduction of our women’s 15-a-side programme, the YTC’s have, and will continue to play a crucial role in allowing us to develop skilled players who could contribute to competitive national team.” 

Females between the ages of 14 and 18 wishing take up rugby and individuals in and around East London who would like to get involved in the YTC can contact the centre’s administrator, Nandipha Manjezi on 

For photos and more information follow the Border Youth Training Centre on Facebook.

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