Newly appointed national deaf sevens team head coach, Peter de Villiers, will be heading up the first-ever open coaching trial session in Gauteng later this week as part of an ongoing drive to expand the player-pool ahead of and in the lead-up to the 2023 Deaf Rugby Sevens World Cup.
The South African Deaf Rugby Association (SADRA) had last month unveiled De Villiers and Marlize van der Merwe as coaches of the national sevens men’s and women’s teams, respectively.
De Villiers, who coached the Springboks from 2008 to 2011, has signed an initial contract that will see him in the position until the 2023 World Cup which is scheduled to take place in Cordoba, Argentina.
On her part, Van der Merwe too is an established figured in the rugby fraternity having formerly represented the Springbok Women’s team and recently serving as head coach of the Free State Women’s side. Additionally, she is a qualified match referee.
It will be the first time since 1995 that the South African’s men’s side compete at the event, while it will be the first-ever time SADRA sends a women’s team to the World Cup Championship.
As part of their preparation, De Villiers and Van der Merwe held their first open training camps in Worcester and Paarl in the Western Cape last month and now the pair will head-up a second opening training camp which will double up as open trials on 24-25 September at Grizzlies Rugby Club in Pretoria.
Day one will be open to members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing (with the criteria set at a minimum hearing loss of 40DB) to try-out during the open trials and day two will serve as the call-up session and will be open to selected individuals as well as the media.
“We have another really important training session coming up this weekend in Pretoria and no doubt as we travel across the country we will unearth more talent,” De Villiers said.
The 65-year-old has urged locals to take an interest in his team’s cause and pleaded with people to get to these sessions and/or to help other interested parties to get there.
“I ask from people from the bottom of my heart, if you can help someone get to a training session because they don’t have transport or can’t afford the taxi to the ground for instance, please help them out because this could be the biggest opportunity of their life to date.”
With the squad being just seven months out from the Deaf Rugby Sevens World Cup Championships in April 2023, SADRA is in need of funding to cover the teams’ travel, accommodation and other expenses while in Argentina; as well as sponsorships so that the teams are adequately equipped and kitted for the tournament.
Commenting on the development of the game, which is still seen as an amateur sport, De Villiers said: “Deaf rugby hasn’t always been top of the rugby agenda in this country, but now the right people are in place and we all have the same common goal: to develop rugby in this country, whether you are able bodied, deaf, male or female.”
“The honour to serve our country and its people in any way is a huge privilege and to make people realise that no matter what the situation, they can become role models.”
Furthermore, as an organisation committed to bridge the gap in gender inequality and to promote inclusiveness from grass roots level to the boardroom, SADRA became the first SA Rugby affiliate to appoint a female vice-president following the selection of Lauren Terras to the position in June 2022.
“This is my opportunity to really put my skills into action in aid of the development and transformation of youth and women’s rugby at grassroots level, especially for people living with disabilities in our communities. I want to change the long-standing perception that people with disabilities are not capable of doing what able-bodied people can do. We have to change that narrative,” Terras explained
SA Deaf Rugby trials in Gauteng details:
When: 24 September (open to public), 25 September (call backs)
Where: Grizzlies Rugby Club
Address: 595 Ds Krige Avenue, Daspoort, Pretoria
Media Opportunity: Peter de Villiers & Marlize vd Merwe
When: Sunday, 25 September
Where: Grizzlies Rugby Club (595 Ds Krige Avenue, Daspoort, Pretoria)
Confirm Attendance: email@example.com / 082 785 2644
Media release issued by Terras Communications on behalf of South African Deaf Rugby Association