Mandisa Williams has only been playing rugby for eight years, but she has already tasted success at the highest level.
Last year, the Border and Springbok women’s loose forward was selected to be part of the first ever Springbok women’s rugby team to play at the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup in Canada.
Williams was the star in a team that battled to perform and was unanimously voted.
Her top class World Cup performance won her the British Airways Women’s Rugby Player of the Year Award.
The star loose forward, who lives in East London, and plays for the Imonti Penguins Club, admires Victor Matfield, who she rates as her favourite rugby player because of his versatility.
The 23-year-old final year Sports Management student at the Walter Sisulu University says there is an abundance of talent in the rural areas, which just needs to be identified and nurtured.
Mandisa is enjoying her rugby and is constantly improving her game as she looks forward to travelling overseas and playing rugby against the best.
Her love for rugby comes from her dad’s desire to take up the game and she is keen to see more women take up the game.
Introducing our May gSTAR, star Springbok loose forward, Mandisa Williams!
What position do you play?
How long have you been playing rugby?
What made you take up rugby?
I was introduced to rugby by my father. He told me to play rugby because he saw some other women at the gym, and he thought I would be good at it.
He formed this club, Jongilanga Women, in the 1999/2000 season. The club is now longer in existence. It was taken over by the Imonti Penguins Club, which I play for now.
I am glad I was able to fulfill my dad’s dream by playing rugby.
Who do you play for provincially?
How did you enjoy playing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup last year?
For me, it was a great experience – the fact that I learnt much from the other ladies.
And I was mentally prepared, because I toured England in 2004 and I also toured Wales.
I gained lots of experience from those tours. From the World Cup side, I really enjoyed it.
What was it like being named Women’s Player of the Year for 2006?
That was good for me because it showed everyone how interested I am in rugby. When you work so hard, and get the recognition, it’s nice and that award gave me more confidence.
It was a wonderful moment being there, being with the Springboks. I was a bit nervous at first, but I calmed down after that.
Who is your favourite rugby player?
Victor Matfield. He has got the passion for the position, he plays more than one position, and he excels in both.
I think he started at number 8, now he is a lock and he is brilliant.
How would you describe the state of women’s rugby in South Africa?
The state at the moment is not at its peak, but the girls are more focused on playing, because competition is getting very tough.
We’ve come back from the World Cup and showed them what we learned, and now everyone wants to play.
Now its making many women want to play. Its also making people more interested in watching women, and hopefully we get more sponsors.
We don’t get enough access to gyms because we don’t have sponsors.
How often do you train?
At the moment, I train three to four times a week, because I don’t have gym access.
So I train with the Imonti Penguins women three to four times a week, and then we play on Saturdays.
What are your rugby plans for 2007?
I’d love to travel more to other countries, especially New Zealand because now they are the World Champs.
Since the World Cup we haven’t played an international, which brings the women’s side down, and it’s not good for women’s rugby.
What is your day job?
I’m a final year sports management at Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape.
gsport strives to celebrate femininity, how would you define femininity?
It’s great to be a woman and I think more women must play sport, work hard and show their worth.
I think women have the power to do whatever they want, so long as they are determined to succeed.
How can we improve the state of women’s sport in South Africa?
In South Africa, we must try to start at the bottom, at club level, and work our way to the top.
We must see what the players needs are and help them. We must also go out to rural areas ,because there is much talent in rural areas.
Put people in charge in those areas and nurture the talent that’s there.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
Stick to the basics, treat people with respect and integrity, and everyone around you will learn from you.
Who are your role models?
Former President Nelson Mandela.
How do you relax?
With friends and family.