2007 May Woman in Media: Zeena Isaacs

by | May 1, 2007

Zeena Isaacs is South Africa’s only female rugby analyst.

Having entertained sports fans with her insightful articles on rugby and golf for Business Day since 2004, Zeena Isaacs turned her focus to television sports broadcasting last March.

Since she joined SABC Sport as a rugby analyst on Rugga Zone, this dynamic 24-year-old has taken the nation by storm with her frank and informed comments on Springbok, Super 14 and Currie Cup rugby.

Being the only woman in a male dominated environment, may faze some, but not Zeena.

That probably has to do with the fact that she plays wing for the Golden Lions Women’s team, understands the ins and outs of rugby, and has the kind of confidence necessary to handle the tough situations.

In fact, this self confessed fitness fanatic doesn’t mind the curve balls life throws at her. She just heads off to the golf course to work off her stresses.

Zeena hopes to be in France for the men’s Rugby World Cup and is predicting that Jake White’s Springboks will at least get to the quarterfinals or the semis.

Her favourite rugby moment was being at Twickenham last November when the Springboks played England.

Watch out for this spunky young woman who has shown the potential to become a top sports broadcaster in South Africa.

Introducing our May Woman in Media – South Africa’s only female rugby analyst, Zeena Isaacs!

 

You’ve branched into TV sports broadcasting, having worked in print, tell us more about your TV work and how you are enjoying it.

I am a rugby analyst on SABC Sport’s Rugga Zone rugby magazine show on Wednesday nights. I love it.

It is a completely different world to print journalism because you can express your views and opinions, which is not always possible in print media.

TV also allows one to debate issues, which is extremely exciting. It is really a lot of fun!

Besides TV, what are your other current career projects?

Aside from writing rugby and golf for Business Day newspaper, I do occasional radio broadcasts and freelance work for publications like The Golfer and the occasional match report for Sapa.

What’s the best live sports event you’ve reported on?

The Test series between the Springboks and England at Twickenham last November on the national year-end tour (for Business Day).

The atmosphere at Twickenham was absolutely awesome and there were a whole lot of off-the-field issues plaguing the Boks during the tour, which dominated the headlines in the buildup to the games.

This all added the excitement of the Tests.

As a woman, what’s the biggest challenge you face as a sports broadcaster/journalist?

Fortunately I have not faced many challenges during my career in rugby. In fact for the most part it has been plain sailing.

The only challenge I have really had to face, was to prove to a few people that I knew my rugby when I took up the position, because many people are still under the impression that rugby is a male sport, and therefore only men are qualified to comment on it.

But after reading my stories, the rugby media, coaches, administrators and players supported me tremendously.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

If you didn’t know your beat, someone would have informed you by now.

What’s the most important thing women should know if they’d like to get into sports journalism?

There may be several people out there who believe that sport is part of a man’s world, but women can be equally as clued about the rules of sport.

You may have to prove yourself at first. But people will take you very seriously if they believe you know the sport very well. 

Who are some of the sports journalists you admire?

Hennie Brandt from the Beeld, Clinton van den Berg from the Sunday Times and JJ Harmse from Rapport.

These guys have been writing about rugby for years, have a deep passion for what they do and they are some of the most knowledgeable journalists in the field. 

What did you do before you became a sports journalist?

I completed my degree in 2002 and worked immediately at the Engineering News and Mining Weekly magazines.

Do you play sport?

Yes. I am a bit of a fitness fanatic so I play whatever sports I possibly can. I play rugby for Golden Lions women’s’ team – I play wing – and Sevens rugby for the Golden Lions.

I used to play provincial touch rugby as well, but I have had to give that up because of the demands of my job. I now play in a touch rugby league instead.

What do you love most about rugby?

The sheer excitement of the game and the passion the players have for the sport. It is also amazing to see the different styles of rugby played by each province and the bitter rivalry between them, which at times is second to none.

Few sports demand the brute force and mental toughness required in rugby and that in itself draws me to the game.

How do you expect Jake White’s Springboks to do at the Rugby World Cup this year?

I think the Springboks will at least get to the quarterfinals or semifinals of the World Cup.

They have tremendous talent and the bulk of the squad has been together for a few years, which is always a bonus because they are familiar with their team-mates style of play.

Adding to this, the Boks are a pretty balanced squad with a good physical pack, talented halfbacks – like scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and flyhalves Andre Pretorius or Francois Steyn – who have the ability to dictate play, and skillful backs like Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana.

However, there is no doubt that New Zealand and France will be the teams to beat in the final stages of the competition to win the championship. To be the best you have to beat the best. 

What is your favourite spectator sport?

Formula 1 racing!

Who are your favourite sports stars?

Daniel Carter, Michael Schumacher, Jean de Villiers, Andre Pretorius.

Favorite stadium?

Loftus Versfeld. There is no stadium in SA where the atmosphere on match day comes close to that at Loftus Versfeld for an important Currie Cup or Super 14 game.

I actually get goose bumps when the Blue Bulls song is plays and the flags are fluttering on match day.

What can be done to improve the state of women’s sport in South Africa?

By getting sponsors to jump on board and TV stations and newspapers to promote the events more regularly.

One only has to look at the Women’s World Cup of Golf to see what this can do to boost women’s sport.

In only three years the event has become one of the highlights on the women’s sporting calendar around the world.

Who are your role models?

I do not really have role models. I strive to do my best in whatever I do and create my own destiny rather than finding encouragement from other people’s achievements.

I believe you are the master of your own destiny.

What inspires you?

The drive to do the best I can I do, and the enjoyment I get from my career. Very few people get to their live their dream and do what they enjoy most in life.

Having that luxury is one of the biggest driving forces in my life.

How do you relax?

Playing a round of golf, watching movies or going to gym.

Your greatest ambition?

I do not have a specific ambition. I prefer to take each day in my stride and see what comes my way.

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