Black women supported and had knowledge of rugby for decades

Cheryl Roberts

Cheryl Roberts

While the South African nation is gripped with rugby fever, packaging by the media of the Rugby World Cup or any Test match, barely reflects the passion for rugby demonstrated by thousands of black women.

It's mainly the white women who are flashed across our television screens as the supporters of rugby. But rest assured, black women support rugby in a big way and this support didn't just start a few years ago. It goes back decades ago, particularly in Eastern Cape and Cape Town, where most black men engaged in rugby activities.

Whether it was a match played in the rural village or urban areas, black women supported rugby in droves. They played a pivotal role as fundraisers, cheerleaders and protectors of blazers and kit.

And the women didn't just cheer their men, they also coached from the sidelines and gave their instructions as to how the game should be played.

After the match, they would give their post-match analyses and say how it should have been done. Wives or girlfriends would continue to talk throughout the week.

This interest in rugby and awesome passion grew immensely over the decades and was passed down to future generations.

In our post-apartheid society more black women are being drawn to the game.

Rugby is dominated by men and imaged as the game for men. But women are also emerging at all levels of rugby, be it on the field as players, spectators, administrators, coaches or referees.

Springbok women's captain Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe developed an interest in rugby while growing up in a rugby-mad family in Uitenhage in Eastern Cape. Her late father, Toto Tsotsobe, played nonracial rugby and her mother also followed the game.

Thobeka Xaphe grew up watching the game in rural Alice where rugby was the most popular sport. Alice has a proud rugby tradition and Thobeka comes from Ngqele village, where Minister of Sport Makhenkesi Stofile and Saru deputy president Mike Stofile grew up.

(Cheryl Roberts is the publisher of SA Sports Woman publication)