CAPE TOWN – Winning a first SA Rugby Women’s Premier Division title since 2006 brought a variety of emotions to Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and it was no different for Bulls Daisies head coach, Hayden Groepes.
The coach was taking it all in after the formalities of the final, won 69-8 by his team, observing the joyful celebrations with a big smile.
“I am just so happy for everybody involved,” Groepes said afterwards.
“The effort put in by the squad, the management, the support staff, the union, the staff from the Blue Bulls Company, it was just amazing and culminated in a victory here today.”
The consistency of the squad during the season – helping them to a 14-game winning streak – was a clear indication that something was done right at Loftus Versfeld and Groepes said time spent with the players was crucial to make that happen.
“We were very fortunate to have time with the players during the year, but without their efforts over the last 43 weeks this would not have happened,” said Groepes.
“We started with 35 players and also went to the clubs for a couple more, so in the end around 42 to 43 players were involved, and to have their efforts rewarded here today, is just special.”
Groepes said the importance of team culture laid the foundation to the synergy and consistency from the squad: “We drove culture more than anything else when we started this journey. Our ability to connect with one another and to share stories was a special part of this journey and that resulted in the commitment should by every individual on the field.”
According to Groepes, the ability for the team to connect was crucial: “We brought in players from all over the country and managed to unify them into a like-minded approach and got these athletes to showcase their talents. The fact that it brought us a first title after so many years was a result of that.”
The final on the B-field at Loftus Versfeld was attended by an enthusiastic crowd and Groepes could not praise their support enough.
“The excitement of this crowd was great to experience,” he said. “They consisted of all races, age groups and the support given to our young women was just so heart-warming and appreciated, it was special to be part of such a phenomenal day.”
The decision to create a professional outfit benefitted the Daisies on this journey and from a wider perspective, Groepes hopes that more unions will follow that path, as it will enhance the tournament and level of competition even more.
“I think we have shown to the other unions what is possible and what can be produced in a programme that is properly funded. That will only enhance the brand of women’s rugby, which will grow the sport even more,” he explained.
SA Rugby’s High-Performance Manager for Women’s rugby, Lynne Cantwell, said the tournament provides an important element towards the pathway to professional rugby for the women’s game.
“The Bulls’ decision to go professional is a first look at what is possible in this regard,” said Cantwell.
“The main focus for us is to have a league where competitive teams play each other every week. It will take a year or two to achieve that, but other unions are already looking at becoming professional as well.
“That will result in the improvement in other areas of the game as well, such as sport science and recovery, while we have already seen the wider exposure that was generated by SuperSport’s involvement in broadcasting games each weekend, which will result in more interest and participation.”
Source: SA Rugby