Former Springbok women’s star, Phumeza Gadu, is making impressive strides as a rugby referee.
Gadu is part of an all-women referee panel at the South African Rugby U18 and U16 Girls Week currently taking place at Jeppe High for Boys in Johannesburg until Friday, 21 June.
Speaking to gsport shortly after refereeing a game at the tournament this week, Gadu said: “Look, never in a million years did I ever think I’d be a referee, let alone be here. This is a huge honour, and I’m truly humbled.”
“It’s really great to be here and I can’t wait to learn more. This affords me the opportunity to broaden my rugby knowledge. Yes, I know the rules of being a player in this sport, but not necessarily those of being a referee, and that’s why I’m happy to be here.”
Gadu, who hails from the township of Missionville in Port Elizabeth, kick-started her rugby career when she was just 15 years old.
The gifted player represented South Africa in the national 15s side women’s rugby, as well as the national Sevens team, and went on to earn herself the captain’s armband during her stay with the women’s senior team.
Gadu was known for her try-scoring ability, and donned the national team colours with pride and devotion each time she stepped up for the nation.
The former talented left-wing was part of the SA Ladies Select team that defeated Wales 12-5 in December 2015, where she scored twice, leading the team to the semi-final of the Dubai 7s International Women’s competition.
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“When I retired from playing rugby, the management was not happy. They wanted me to continue playing until the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup. But, because I knew my body wouldn’t cope for long, I declined. Besides that, I also felt that it was time to give the younger girls a chance to play for the Springbok women’s team.”
The retired Springbok remains humble and is keen to contribute to the growth of women’s rugby.
“At first, I thought I’d venture into coaching because that’s all I ever wanted to do. Even when my mother advised me to try my hand in refereeing, I refused.”
“Then came a gentleman from my hometown by the name of Yamile. He also tried to talk me into becoming a referee. He told me about the shortage of female referees in women’s rugby, I still refused.”
“It was not until one day, when I received a phone call from a lady called Larry. She told me she was referred to me by Yamile. I gave her a chance to talk, and she encouraged me to join rugby. She didn’t force me in anyway, in fact, she gave me enough time to think about it.”
A Positive Choice for Gadu and South Africa
“I then sat down and weighed in on my options and realized that maybe taking up on this offer wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It’s the best decision I’ve made and I have no regrets.”
“You know, sometimes we let opportunities pass because we have our mind set on things that we think are better, whereas the one in front of your eyes could be the best for you.”
Gadu’s former team-mate, Aimee Barrett-Theron is forging an impressive refereeing career on the global stage, and Gadu only has good things to say about her.
“Oh Aimee! I met her in 2007 in the Springbok women’s team. We were very close and still are. We were so close such that we used to share everything together. She’s one of the most kind-hearted and humble person you’ll ever meet. Her lovable personality is complemented by her beautiful smile.”
“She’s a great human being and I’m not surprised that she’s doing so well in her career. It’s her humbleness that has brought her this far,” said Gadu.
“I’ve always known that her and Lusanda Mtiya (former teammate) would go far in life. Not because they are gifted in what they do, but their humbleness and determination to wanting to achieve their goals.”
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“I’ve seen how Aimee officiates games and she’s doing amazingly good. I’m so proud of her and truly inspired. She inspires me so much I want to reach her level one day. She’s already paved the way for me and shown me how it’s done and I’m ready follow in her footsteps.”
“With the kind of person she is, there really is no doubt that Aimee is going to shoot to the stars and become one of the best referees in women’s rugby. She’s really passionate about her craft and I respect her for that.”
Women are forging their way in SA rugby and Gadu was also full of praise for newly appointed SA U/20 women’s rugby team, Laurian Johannes.
“Look at coach Laurian, perfect example that dreams are achievable. I’m really proud of her and happy to see so many women coming on board in the rugby space. I’m glad SARU is bringing many women in rugby, it’s needed and important. It’s good for women’s rugby and sport. The more women in women’s rugby the better for our sport.”
Gadu has a simple message for young girls participating in the SA Rugby U18 and U16 Girls Week.
“More than anything, I want them to know that anything is possible in life and goals can be achieved. You just need to put your mind to it, work hard and aim higher. I’m really happy for each and every girl participating here, they are all uniquely talented and special.”
Photo 1 Caption: Former Springbok Women’s player Phumeza Gadu (back row, fifth from right) forms part of the 15 all-woman refereeing panel officiating this year’s U16 and U18 SA Rugby Girls Week, and has spoken to gsport about the opportunity.
Photo 2 Caption: Phumeza Gadu caught in the sponsors’ colours at the U16 and U18 Girls Rugby week, at the Jeppe High for Boys in Kensington, Johannesburg. Photo: Phumeza Gadu
Photo 3 Caption: Gadu smiles along with two colleagues at the tournament, which sports a 15-strong all-woman refereeing panel. Gadu explains how she just wanted to be a coach, but that her eyes were opened to the refereeing career. Photo: Phumeza Gadu
Photo 4 Caption: Former Springbok rugby player Phumeza Gadu pictured in ful flight, in her former playing days. Photo: Phumeza Gadu