SELEBI-PHIKWE: A town largely known for, until 2016, producing copper and nickel, Selebi-Phikwe is slowly making its name as a producer of rugby talent.BCL Mine’s copper and nickel smelter might have spluttered to a halt nearly two years ago, but the wheels churning out rugby talent are turning.
In 2011, the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) identified Tebogo Primary School as a rugby centre of excellence, through the Re Ba Bona Ha development programme. Project coordinator, Tosca Segaise told Mmegi Sport that the project is aimed at developing rugby in the former mining town.“For a programme to progress it should have a caretaker and I was available. I was on the ground when the project was piloted. We wanted to develop rugby in this town,” he said.
Segaise said they identified three primary schools; Phikwe, Tebogo and Reuben Mpabanga to be part of the project when it was launched. He said the three schools were the strongholds of rugby, with Tebogo the focal centre where training sessions take place.
He said now they have added two more schools, Lapologang and Anderson. “We have seen dominance of rugby at school level both junior and senior in the past year. Players who progress from here add value. We have three players who became part of the Under-15 and Under-17 national teams,” Segaise said.
He said since 2014 when rugby was admitted into the Confederation of School Sport Associations of Southern Africa (COSSASA) Games, they have always had representation.
Segaise said in terms of support they rely on parents and Debswana sponsorship. “A programme like this one needs somebody who is there full time. Fortunately, we have produced coaches who are in charge now. Unfortunately, there is nothing that keeps youngsters here. After senior secondary school, they leave Selebi-Phikwe for tertiary education in other towns,” he said. The programme targets players from the age of six up to 15 years.
One of the coaches, who used to be a player under the project,
Motlhabani said after finishing Form Five, he coached the Under-13 team full time leading them to a good tournament in Zimbabwe in May this year. He said coaching youngsters is difficult and needs patience. Motlhabani said it is important to progress hence they introduced players to contact rugby.
“They play touch as an introduction rugby, then they progress to tag, stop the man and when they get used to it they play contact. It is when things like hand off is not allowed,” Motlhabani added. The 20-year-old coach said his players are like brothers to him. He said that makes it easy for him to instil discipline in the team. Meanwhile BRU sport development officer, Frederick Kebadiretse said a weekend event, the Re Ba Bona Ha Skills Festival held in Selebi-Phikwe, has become an annual competition.
He said they wanted all the centres to attend, but unfortunately the Maun team did not attend due to transport challenges. He said only four teams; Phikwe, Consha Western Suburbs (Bulawayo), Get Into Rugby Centre of Tlamelong Vultures and Gaborone West, made it.
“It was a 7s tournament and we also had coaching clinics and referees refreshers. Most of the coaches here are products of our centres,” he said.