Love Knysna: What’s was the best moment you’ve had as a coach?
Coach Ash: That’s shared between two events. The one was when my ex-fiancé, Mathrin Simmers, our clubs captain at the time’, became our first Springbok player – that was June 2012. The other event was last year, winning my first International trophy with the Kenya National Women’s 7s team at The World Series Qualifier in Dublin Ireland – my first International Tournament as coach.
Love Knysna: What are the qualities you need to see in a player for them to gain your special attention?
Coach Ash: A player just need to show a very high level of eagerness to learn, be coachable, disciplined and a hard worker.
Love Knysna: Despite the game being such a big part of the South African culture, women are more likely to be thought of as cheerleaders than as players. What made you invest your time into women’s rugby?
Coach Ash: Women’s rugby was something new, with more challenges then dealing with men. Challenge drives me. The ladies who approached me back in 2005 were very eager to learn the game. Over the years, the success we achieved opened up endless possibilities I realised that young girls were able to reach top honours. I wanted to help them get there.
Love Knysna: Titan’s Rugby Club is your flagship for women’s rugby. How long has it been running and where do you see it’s future over the next 3 years.
Coach Ash: The Titans Women’s Rugby Club is a senior woman’s rugby club has its origins in the Greater Hornlee area of Knysna.
Hornlee is a community where privileges are rare; a society proliferated with drug abuse, gang activity, rape and other negative and anti-social activities. One of the primary reasons this club was established back in 2005 was to provide an alternative and healthy activity for young girls who lived in this oppressive environment.
Titans WRC has always been “community development” oriented – and this mantra continues to drive us today. Our principle goal is to facilitate the personal development of our members. Our strategy is to include as many people within the community as possible in all of our initiatives and activities. Since our inception we have travelled the length and breadth of the Garden Route in the name of rugby building a winning culture and seeing many of our original members grow and develop into solid members of society who give back to the community at large.
Titans WRC were Established During April 2005 with 25 members aged 14-18.
Within the next three years we see our self as the biggest women’s rugby club in Africa with a pathway system in place for young girls from grassroots at primary schools to senior teams with established girls rugby leagues at primary and high schools that will feed our senior and junior club teams.
Love Knysna: What is the league called in Knysna and how many male and female teams are competing?
Coach Ash: Knysna does not have a rugby league but affiliate rugby teams plays in the SWD Rugby Union’s leagues. Two of the men’s teams plays in the SWD Coastal Regional League (Knysna United & Greater Knysna RFC) and Sedgefield plays in the SWD Presidents League (one division higher than the Coastal League) Under the Greater Knysna RFC umbrella there is a “Sunday League” where 6 unaffiliated teams plays in this leagues. The ladies normally played organised friendlies within the SWD borders through the SWD development structures but an official League will be introduced this year.
Love Knysna: What’s the prize for the winning teams?
Coach Ash: The men’s section within the SWD leagues normally get prize money as well as promotion to the higher division for the next year. Knysna United last won the Coastal League in 2005. They were promoted to the Presidents League but were relegated last year.
The Sunday winner of each tournament in the league wins the combined income of the entry fees of the teams of that tournament.
Love Knysna: Which high school currently has the best team and what have they accomplished?
Coach Ash: To be honest, there is no real best team in Knysna… by my definition of best or better.
Knysna High have the more organised rugby team at the moment while I was informed last week that there is a big chance that Knysna Secondary Schools might not have a rugby team or rugby games this year.
Concordia High is still establishing themselves but will face big challenges this year with their rugby coach Mr, Borchards, having retired – that leaves them without a coach. Percy Mdala High School have also, for years, struggled to get rugby settled at the school. Oakhill School has recently introduced rugby and is still finding their feet.
Over the years, Knysna Secondary and Knysna High have been the leaders or pace setters for local rugby at high school level. Between the two schools, they have delivered a few provincial and national players. Unfortunately, neither of the schools has ever played in the top schools section.
Love Knysna: Which Knysna players currently have the most potential and why?
Coach Ash: There is a view players in different age groups So I will take it in sections:
Senior Men: Justin Damons, Don-Marco, Manfred Soldaat Clayton Kiewiets & Merlin Geswindt – these gentleman, in there different positions, are well skilled and have a good understanding of the positional requirements, good general understanding of the game, are well conditioned, hard working, dedicated and very talented.
School Boys: I have not watched too much high school rugby but one from Knysna High, Thandile, caught my eye a few years ago, at primary school level. I have been tracking his progress and worked with him a few times as well. Zane Terblanche and Enrico, both from Hornlee, show a lot of promise. I believe with good coaching, to work on the small errors and technique, they can go a long way.
Many of our ladies normally represent the SWD. At the moment, we have four players on the senior team who I believe can become Springboks in the next few years. Marlene Adams, the Captain of the Titans, is currently one of the best line out jumpers in the country… and definitely one of the best forwards on the national circuit. She specialises as a lock but is equally good at flank forward and number eight. Brandy Agulhas, who plays prop and hooker, received a call up to the SA U/20 group in 2007. Monique Smith and Prelene Pegram, both youngsters who have captained the SWD U/16 & U/18 age group teams, will start their senior rugby this year – both have been invited to the SARU High Performance Camps.
School Girl level: Chante Cornelius was invited last year to the SARU U/16 High Performance Squad, becoming our latest national representative with a very bright future ahead of herself. I believe hat the rest of our provincial representatives stand a very good chance to make it all the way to the Springbok squad, the list just a bit long.
I have to add that I have discovered a new 12 year old player through our development structures in the Academy program. Her name is . She is currently the fastest female player in Knysna, faster even than our national player, Chante. Charlize is also the fastest rugby player in her age group, Knysna U13 boys included. I believe that with time on her side, and the proper coaching, she will become a Springbok within the next 7-9 years.
Love Knysna: In the bigger picture, which provincial team do you support and what must they do to be #1 this year?
Coach Ash: I have always been a Blue Bulls rugby fan for the men’s game. But normally when people ask me this question, I respond to it from a women’s rugby perspective as that is where my focus is. I have always been a Border supporter – their structures and commitment to the growth of the women’s game is just awesome. They also play very good rugby.
That said, I am always going to back my local team, the SWD Eagles, even when they playing Border. So, for this interview, SWD Eagirls, as they are known, will be my favourite team. If they can get their conditioning up and their structures, on both attack and defence, up to standard, they can finish as number one. The EaGirls have the quality players to win the league. Just a few tweaks and they can get there.
Love Knysna: Whose your favourite rugby player of all time, your rugby inspiration?
As a youngster, Zinzane Brook was my favourite player. From a women’s rugby perspective, Mathrin Simmers is still my favourite rugby player of all time and shares the role of being my (women’s) rugby inspiration along with Mandisa Williams, the former Springbok captain.
Love Knysna: Where do you coach from, what does it involve and what are the fees?
Coach Ash: At the moment, we are without a safe training facility for our senior team… so we are not training. Our juniors practice with the primary school kids in our development program on The Hornlee Sports field, Mondays to Wednesdays, 15h00 till 17h00.
I also do High Performance training and private sessions with the Kaiwhana Titans Rugby Academy for kids who wants to enhance their skill level position, specific skills and techniques.
I am also the Head Coach of the Greater Knysna Rugby team. They are using a field in White Location that is in terrible condition.
The cost for interested players;
- Titans Women’s Rugby Club – R200 per player per year
- Greater Knysna RFC – free
- Kaiwhana Titans Rugby Academy – Intermediate High performance Program R200pm ( 8 Field Sessions Only) / Intermediate High performance Program R700pm ( 8 Field Sessions & 12 Gym sessions) / Private One on One 1hr sessions at R50 per session.
Love Knysna: You recently got into an online argument with the Knysna Municipality regards the state of the field and facilities. Sum up the challenges you and the teams are facing?
Coach Ash: The biggest challenges is a lack of accessible, safe training facilities within our communities.
Love Knysna: What’s the way forward?
Coach Ash: We re-opened a discussion surrounding the previous decision by the Knysna Municipality and sport codes to deny access to certain facilities. We, as the Titans WRC, submitted a proposal for the usage of the facilities in Knysna for all sport codes.
In the meeting, there were no other proposals. Our comprehensive proposal will be distributed to all role players so they can study it and, then, by the 6th of April, submit a counter proposal should they wish to. On the 12th of April, we will meet again, hopefully making a joint decision with the Municipality and the sporting codes on the usage of the facilities
Love Knysna: Where do you envisage Knysna rugby as a whole… and what do we need to do as a town to get there?
Coach Ash: Going at this rate, rugby in Knysna will slowly die. Social rugby, in the Coastal Leagues, will become the future of local rugby unless we, as administrators, learn to put aside our personal differences, cut out rugby politics and put rugby first. Only then, rugby will have a chance to survive in Knysna.
I proposed in the past that we form one rugby club in Knysna, under an umbrella set-up, with a domestic league including all teams in the Knysna Municipality area. This one club would be affiliated to SWD, with 3 teams playing in the premier league, two teams in the president league and 2 teams playing in the coastal league. If we take that road, we can dominate rugby in the Southern Cape
Love Knysna: What’s the most important advice you tell an up and coming school rugby player?
Coach Ash: Work hard and smart, NEVER GIVE UP, and, when you reach the top, stay humble, never forgetting where you came from because the easy part is getting to the top, the hard part is staying there.
Contact Coach Ash:
- 073 253 8809
Stay in touch with Knysna rugby through:
- Twitter: @Titans_WRC
- Twitter: @CoachAsh14