The training centre is one of eight 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.
In the last two-and-a half years, the Western Province YTC – based at City Park Stadium in Athlone – has grown from 75 participants to 300, with the centre hosting weekly training sessions, with coach Rodger Smith – who also served as an SA Select Women’s assistant coach on the England tour – targeting an increase of 300 players per year going forward.
In addition to the training sessions, fortnightly rugby festivals are hosted in various communities where schools get together and play rugby at U14, U16 and U18 level.
The YTC also assists with the development of coaches and referees through its volunteering structures, most of whom are invited from schools and clubs, while another vital element of the centre is the educational support it provides where possible through its relationship with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).
“The YTC programme is important because it offers young girls an opportunity to learn the game of rugby and to participate in a competitive structure,” said Rodger Smith.
“With many of them coming from disadvantaged communities they also learn important life and social skills, while the programme also gives them a cause and allows them to excel at something. Through this they are able to break the mould, rather than becoming a statistic like many of the girls in their communities.
The advancement of players in the country’s main women’s competitions aside, the programme’s success is also evident in the team’s performances in the annual SA Rugby Youth Training Centre tournament, where Western Province’s U18 team won the north section in 2015 and 2016, while their U16 team emerged victorious in the north section in 2015 and this year.
“Since the inception of the programme a number of our Under-18 players have been selected for the SA Select Women’s squad, senior and junior national training camps, and the Western Province women’s interprovincial team respectively, which proves that we are on the right track.”
“Through this programme we also strive to improve the communities in which we operate by upskilling coaches, teachers and volunteers who assist us in making this programme successful,” said Smith.