“We do not want to take over, we want to partake. We do not want favours, we seek opportunity. We are not here to replace anyone but here to speak up on our behalf” reflects Thando Manana, Blue Bulls Company (BBCo.) Special Projects Manager and High-Performance Women’s Rugby Manager.
Manana speaks as the BBCo. enters a strategic year, taking the lead in championing the development and professionalisation of women’s rugby at the franchise level in South Africa.
In a first in the country, the Blue Bulls Company has – this year – rewarded 35 women, with professional contracts. The contracted squad will form part of the Bulls Daisies, the official women’s team in Pretoria.
The Daisies will compete in the Inter-Provincial League which is set to start in March with fixtures expected to be confirmed over the coming weeks.
The full squad and coaching staff will be announced soon.
As excitement bubbles over at Loftus, Manana says the dream is for the women’s high-performance environment to be modelled on the successful one he saw during his two-week visit to the United Kingdom, alongside the England RFU’s Charlie Hayter.
“I am grateful to Saracens, Harlequins and the Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club for opening their doors to me, allowing me to spend time in their high-performance environment, studying the DNA of their setup and learning from their experience in terms of what has worked and what has not, as well as what served the development of women’s rugby over there and how we can adapt those key ingredients into what we are trying to achieve as the Bulls Daisies,”
“Our ambitions are not to merely partake in competition but to establish a solid foundation where South African rugby stars will be produced and I believe the groundwork we have laid over the last few months, is already a step in the right direction. The support from the Blue Bulls Company has been tremendous and the partners in the background share our common goal of creating champions, out of our backyard,”
“This is (indeed) an exciting time and I hope that our rugby community will get behind us as we elevate women’s rugby to the top.”
BBCo. Chief Executive Officer, Edgar Rathbone said that the move to professionalise women’s rugby was a landmark achievement whose success will have a ripple effect on the game from grassroots to national level.
“This has been a long time coming and almost feels surreal that we have finally summited this mountain top. As a family, we always say that all are welcome and that we have each other’s backs and finally, our women in rugby can get behind that message knowing that indeed, someone has their back,”
“I am sure that the professionalisation of the team will also build on their confidence as players because they know that their effort and hard work is being recognised. I hope that this will spur them on and ultimately benefit the national side as South Africa looks to become a global powerhouse on the international stage.”
Rathbone went on to say the introduction of professional women’s rugby was more than just the creation of equality. “Creating opportunity does not mean we have an equal environment but is the start to opening channels that lead to an equal community and this is why we want to ensure that we avail resources that allow the team the opportunity to function as a professional team. We are leaning on our partners to help us expand this operation and ensure that the team feels that they have been given all the needed resources to best position them for success,”
“We are extremely blessed to have Thando in our midst, a seasoned pro in the administration of rugby and an invested ally in the development of women’s rugby. We are confident that his stewardship will lead us to a sustainable high-performance environment as much as we are confident that his dedication and work will benefit South African women’s rugby too,”
“We cannot wait to see the Daisies run out and look forward to cheering them on.”