Vuka- Turning rugby values into virtues

UCTRFC have been one of the driving forces behind the VUKA initiative in the Cape Flats over the last 3 years. Vuka is an African word meaning “Awakening”. The hope behind the project is that we can awaken the spirit of rugby in the townships.

In Mitchells Plain in 1990 there were 17 schools that were playing competitive rugby; real rivalry’s existed between the schools. In 2008, after the Boks had won two World Cups, there were only 3 schools still playing. Vuka has now set up a WP Wednesday league, where two separate leagues take place. Across the Cape Flats there are now 56 schools playing zonal U18 leagues, from Grassy Park to Delft, from Langa to Philippi.

The objective initially was to open up the school gates after 3pm and get the kids taking part in extra curricular activities. Since 1994, the cultures in schools have changed radically. Teachers are no longer interested or motivated to get the kids involved in activities. As a result, the school gates close behind them and the kids end up on the street exposed to gangs, drugs and a degree of boredom.

Dale Santon (SA Rugby Legends) voices this further: “the initiative was to give these kids a chance to express themselves, to feel proud that they represented their school and then to expend their physical energy and frustrations on a rugby field”.

With the leagues in place, we looked to further expand the initiative. With the help of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation we are developing a life skills programme as part of the course. John Dobson (WP U 20 coach) and Steph Nel (WP Institute) have teamed up with Lindy Bruce (Cool to Be Me) to develop a program they have called “ Cool Play”. We felt that there were enough life lessons in rugby that we could teach the kids to apply in life. We are using the framework of a brilliant self-esteem building course Cool to Be Me (available to boys at SACS, Wet Pups & Bishops) and putting it on the rugby field.

As an example, one of the modules was about ‘staying positive’. We asked Dobbo and Steph what could be used as an analogy for this in rugby. They immediately answered “Counter attack”. They tell us what rugby drills we must teach the coaches and Lindy ( developer of the Cool to be Me Programme) then creates a conversation with the boys as they finish the exercise. It might go something along the line. “Obviously, in counter attack the initial approach from the first few people is critical. Any stuttering or doubts will mean you will be tackled behind the gain line. Give us some examples of where the same thing might happen in life?”

Recently Barry O’Mahony, who runs the UCTRFC Good Citizen portfolio was at the Laureus Foundation Global Summit in London. Laureus are not so much interested in the organisation of sport, as they are in the power of sport to change the world. At one session about Youth Leadership Hugo Porto the great Argentine flyhalf got up to say that what we really want to see happening is that “the values that the kids will learn from sport can be turned into virtues”.

“It was always thought that black people do not really like or play rugby. It could not be further from the truth. This year I was out in Philippi and one guy was playing for his school in his underpants (i.e. no shorts), he just got stuck in! I was then at another game and I was standing beside a coach when a player was being subbed. The sub had no boots and the other player swapped boots with him. As he was putting the boots on I asked him what size he needed, the answer was “any size”! They just want to play and now because of VUKA they can”.

If you want to get involved in any way (time, money, admin, coaching) please contact Barry O’Mahony (