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Young Springboks ready for big step-up

Head coach of the South African women’s rugby U20s side Kaya Malotana (pictured below) answers our questions ahead of the upcoming Nations Cup.

The competition, being held in California, will be the first ever competitive outing for the South African U20 side. They will face England, USA and Canada.

Tell us about your coaching background?

I started my coaching career at the University of the North West in Potchefstroom for the Puk Rugby Institute as a specialist individual skills coach in 2004. Part of my portfolio at the Institute was to mentor new recruits into the University. I coached the University 2nd XV as an assistant backs coach 2004-2005, I coached the Leopards Amateur XV as head coach 2005 and we reached the final of the National Amateur Provincial League. In 2006 I moved up to Johannesburg to join the Golden Lions Rugby Union Development Department where I was coaching and developing talented athletes from the underserved communities of Johannesburg up until today.

I have also coached the Lions Provincial Womens XV as Head Coach, the Lions Vodacom Cup XV and U21 Currie Cup XV [Mens rugby]. Since 2007 date Ive been the assistant backs coach for the Springbok Womens XV and was part of the set-up at the World Cup last year.

What is the structure for women's rugby at U20 level in South Africa?

We currently do not have a U20 National Provincial League or Tournament. SARU has started with an U16 National Provincial Girls Tournament last year out of which we can implement a High Performance Programme to further develop athletes identified at this tournament. It is hoped that over time this can be grown to incorporate U18s and U20s.

How have you selected this squad?

The squad has been handpicked from a data base collected from various Provincial tournaments and leagues and once assembled we were able to selected the best possible combinations.

How have you prepared for this competition?

We have had camps since Dec of 2010 so to date we have had seven camps. This would be ideal if we had a strong Provincial structure to support the skill development and conditioning of these athletes. Our biggest challenge is that the majority of the young players only get to experience intensive and specialised coaching and training at camp. SARU is doing their level best to develop and support Provincial Womens Rugby structures but the buy in is happening at a very slow pace.

What areas do you think your team is strong in?

The ladies are highly motivated to represent themselves, their families and the country in a respectful and dignified manner. Whilst recognising that we come with a lot of inexperience compared to the countries we will be playing against, they are very keen to test their ability against these countries. This is where our strength lies, to show no fear of the experience we will be facing and to man up to the opportunities and challenges presented to us.

And what areas do you need to improve in?

Our set piece presents a very unique challenge for us because we do not come with big athletes upfront but it is a challenge that excites us in that it also appeals to each individual in the pack to man up to the challenge and also calls on the combined effort of the pack to be something special.

What are you aims for this competition?

This assignment for us presents an opportunity to identify, develop and enhance athletes who have the potential to serve in the Senior Springbok Womens Team. We also hope to ascertain where our standard of rugby, in this age group, is in comparison with the more experienced countries. I personally would like to see our athletes giving a good account of their rugby potential, learning from other international athletes and to come away with a positive experience from the tournament, for me that is the winning I am looking for, the scoreboard has a knack of taking care of itself .