Three Ulster women rugby players began an adventure of a life time this week as part of an ongoing women’s player exchange between women’s rugby in Ulster and South Africa.
The exchange was set up by Ulster Women’s head coach Benjy van Der Byl through his sports company Vdbsports.co.uk and earlier this year local ladies sides Belfast Harlequins and City of Derry hosted three South African Women’s Internationals as part of the programme.
Belfast Harlequins hosted international out half Zenay Jordaan with City of Derry entertaining wing forward, and South African captain, Mandissa Williams and scrum half Fundi Plaattjie. All three players had an extremely positive influence on the local game with their dedication to the game and their love of the sport rubbing off on many of the local players.
The involvement of the South African’s in last seasons clashes between City of Derry and Belfast Harlequins lifted these, already keenly fought, clashes to a new level with some exceptional rugby played by both sides in two thrilling encounters and it’s hopped that both Ulster Women’s Rugby and South African Women’s rugby will continue to reap the benefits of this exchange in the years to come.
The Ulster side of the exchange see’s Belfast Harlequins prop Alanagh Chipperfield and City of Derry’s fullback Rachel Lennox and wing Natasha Milligan join South African Women’s side the Blue Bulls in Pretoria who are competing in the Women’s Inter Provincial Championships which starts this weekend. The girls will also be playing for the TUKS, who are the 7s team for the University of Pretoria.
The fourteen provincial women’s teams have been divided into two sections. Section A consists of ten teams – namely Eastern Province, Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, Western Province, Border, KwaZulu-Natal, Boland, Free State, SWD and Griffons while Griquas, Leopards, Mpumalanga and Falcons will compete in Section B.
In Section A, EP, Golden Lions, Blue Bulls, WP and Border are pooled together in Group 1 while the Group 2 teams are KZN, Boland, Free State, SWD and Griffons.
The teams will play a single round and the two top teams in each group will contest the semi-finals on 3 September 2011 for a spot in the final, which is scheduled for a week later. Section B starts on 30 July.
Alanagh left for Jo’burg on 22nd June with Rachel and Natasha arriving on 29th and with the Blue Bulls having a bye this weekend the girls have until 16th July to get themselves in contention for their opening fixture against the Golden Lions.
The girls will be keeping us informed of their progress throughout their stay in Jo’Burg.