Trio find their coaching niche on foreign soil
Eastern Cape young mentors making names for themselves overseas
South African rugby coaches are getting out of their comfort zones and making a name for themselves in other countries.
Not everyone can say they have been on the cover of European sports newspapers and magazines, but three young rugby coaches from the Eastern Cape, Vuyo Zangqa, Ntando Majokweni Manyosha and Vuyisile Mbula, can tick this off their bucket list.
After years of playing and coaching on the Sevens circuit playing for the Blitzbokke and coaching in SA and Kenya and also a stint as Southern Kings assistant coach – Zangqa is now the German Sevens team head coach.
Zangqa was recruited for the Sevens position after serving as the Kings’ backline coach in Super Rugby two seasons ago.
Germany play in the Rugby Europe Championship, the tier below the Six Nations, against the likes of Romania and Russia. Speaking to the Daily Dispatch, Zangqa said his major plan is to try and develop German rugby.
Since his arrival in Germany, their Sevens team has reached two finals in the European Sevens series which they have never done before.
“We haven’t won yet but our target is to reach the Olympics in 2020,” said Zangqa.
However, his journey in Germany hasn’t been easy. “It has its challenges, one of which is the language, but one has to give themselves in order to make a success of their current situation. I took lessons and now I am slowly getting grips with the language although it’s hard but I will get there,” he explains.
He also had to leave his wife and three sons behind in Cape Town.
“It’s been tough especially with twin boys who are only a year and half but it’s all about creating a future for them,” he said.
He finds some consolation in the warmth of the German people who go out of their way to make sure his stay there is homely and productive.
He has big plans for the German Sevens team as he wants to take them to the 2020 Japan Olympics.
“It’s only been a year and things are already looking positive but like I mentioned earlier the aim is to qualify for the Olympics in 2020. The aim is also to host one of the Sevens legs in the country and that will be huge since you also know Germany is a soccer nation,” he added.
Zangqa, who missed out on being the Springboks Sevens coach to incumbent coach Neil Powell, still dreams of being in charge of the Boks setup one day.
“At this point I would love to come back and coach our national team but building my value as a coach is what’s important, develop a rock solid system so that when I depart one day they (Gemany) will be able to move foward without hassles. And perhaps in future I will get that opportunity to come back and represent my country of birth.”
The Germans' trust in Zangqa is undoubted.
Late last year, German rugby was thrown into chaos after the men’s national team decided to go on strike before a match against Chile forcing the German Rugby Union (DRV) to scramble for a team.
Zangqa was drafted in to quickly prepare the makeshift side for the international game.
He had only two days to prepare a squad of national team Sevens players, experienced club players and youngsters on the verge of the senior squad.
Germany are an ambitious rising force in European rugby and earlier last year hired exEngland forward Mouritz Botha as an adviser and forwards coach.
Another coach doing well is Manyosha, who is currently the national head coach of the Lithuanian senior men’s team.
He is also the former director of rugby of the Lithuanian Rugby Federation but due to his other commitments moved on from the position.
He has been in Lithuania for just over four years.
“I have been the national head coach for four years and have gained promotion every season in the five European rugby divisions. We have come first in every division we have played in since I took over. We are now participating in the Trophy division which is just below the Championship (in which previous Rugby World Cup participants like Russia, Georgia, Romania participate).”
Talking about his challenges in a foreign country, Biza as he is known in the rugby circles said: “It’s a challenging experience. I was quite a young coach when I first took up the position as the head coach and had to prove very quickly that I could turn a largely unsuccessful team and environment into a successful one. I live in the smallest and most conservative of the country’s cities. People are extremely conservative and traditional. Everyone keeps to themselves, so it took a long while to be accepted as part of the community. For most people I would be the first black person they have ever encountered in the flesh.”
He says he struggled to leave his family behind in the Eastern Cape.
“Initially it was quite difficult to leave everyone behind but as time goes by you start realising it as a sacrifice for the bigger goal. The goal is the opportunity to have a career in coaching. These opportunities are far and few in South Africa especially for black coaches,” he explains.
Biza says initially there was reluctance as people were not sure what he was bringing to the table but once he got a bit of success he was totally welcomed.
He has no plans of coming back to Eastern Cape or South Africa anytime soon.
“it’s hard to say really. I guess it would depend on the type of opportunity. I can't say I will never come back but at the moment I don’t see many black coaches get opportunities and progressing so I wouldn’t be holding my breath hoping. I do expect a lot more opportunities in Europe than back home to be honest,” Biza concluded.
Mbula, born in Ginsberg outside King William’s Town, left South Africa, to start coaching abroad eight years ago after he seriously injured his shoulder whilst playing in Cape Town.
He is a development coach of South West Rugby Academy in Netherlands.
Mbula a former Western Province’s development officer, says he gets more respect coaching in Europe than his own country.
“In Netherlands I’m judged more on my capabilities in the field of play and what I can do than my race. It’s a pity I can’t say the same about my own country,” he said.
Even though he left his two sisters behind, Mbula still harbours ambitions of coaching in South Africa.
Saru’s senior manager women rugby Mahlubi Puzi, who once worked with the trio, attributed their success to hard work and what was instilled in them during their development stages. “I worked with these boys whilst I was still a development officer for Border between 1993 and 2000.”