Developing players at grassroot levels is what Coach Thabiso Dlamini is passionate about. The Mpophomeni-born Coach is a former rugby player who played for the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union development programme at district and provincial levels. He developed his coaching skills by helping his then coach, with the younger players and sharing his experience with them during coaching sessions. Thabiso will be taking the KZN team to the iQhawe Week tournament next week and will be assisted by Kwanda Mgube.
He says the upcoming tournament is not only about the players, but the coaches as well who help develop these young athletes. iQhawe Week takes place at the Johannesburg Stadium from 3-6 October. The week is aimed at giving young players a chance to showcase their talents with a chance of getting scouted and winning a scholarship. The tournament was initiated by the Cell C SA Rugby Legends and the South African Rugby Union in 2013 and this year, they have partnered with the Hollywood Foundation.
Thabiso believes in building connections and giving knowledge to the players and coaches he works with. He says that what he wants for his players is for them to enjoy practice and games as well as learn from them. “They must play the game the way they see it using the tactics and fundamentals that we implemented during training. A player has to have a willingness to learn and to do extra than what is expected,” he says.
With only a few days to go to the competition, Thabiso says that he wants his team to enjoy the experience, give their best and learn from their performances as well as those from other teams. “The tournament has created a pathway to play rugby at a national level for players who would not be recognised in their provinces because their schools do not have big rugby programmes. We have seen our own player from the 2018 team Mawande Mdanda, use his chance and now he is playing in the U21 Currie Cup,” Thabiso said.
Sharing the same sentiments as Thabiso about the team, assistant coach Kwanda Mgube says he is looking forward to the tournament and to see the players grow. Kwanda who is from Glencoe is also a former rugby player who started playing rugby in school and then moved on to play for Sarel Cilliers. He says that all he wants to do is to give back to his community of Sithembile the only way he knows how and that is by introducing rugby to the youth.
Thabiso and Kwanda say they are gratefully to the SA Rugby Legends and the Hollywood Foundation for not forgetting about players from smaller schools. They say that rugby has been a pillar for most of their players and they hope that the partnership is prosperous, and they reap rewards when one of the boys in this tournament dawns the green and gold.