ROYAL NAVY RUGBY UNION IN SOUTH AFRICA – COMMUNITY RUGBY
Although the primary purpose of the visit of the RNRU to South Africa was to compete in the Commonwealth Cup there was always an aspiration to attempt to do more to support the development of rugby in general. With the support of the public, through the 'Kit for Kids Appeal' and a generous donation from the specialist rugby clothing company KooGa, it was possible to deliver in excess of 500 rugby shirts to be used by the schools in one of the poorest regions of the country. The shirts were presented to the Head of School Sports Development for the region during a visit to the Township of Khayelitsha, which means 'new home' by the First Sea Lord and President of the RNRU Admiral Sir Jonathon Band. Approximately 300 school children were taken out of the classroom to receive a coaching session by the RN Squad. Under the direction of RFU Tutor and Director of Community Rugby for the RNRU Gary Bushell the morning session was thoroughly enjoyed by all. RFU level 3 Coach Simon Burns was the senior coach in attendance but he was only one of several of the current RN Squad who hold coaching qualifications and together with the non qualified players a full programme of instruction was conducted. The genuine warmth and appreciation of the children was reward enough but the ability to put something back into the development of the game still remains one its key tenets. The touring party were then given an insight into life in the sprawling township and its people who live in the poorest of conditions despite the best efforts of the South African authorities. New housing is being built with government subsidies replacing the corrugated iron shacks although in some areas shacks still dominate the horizon with people living in squalid conditions. Guided by the local police the RN party were driven through part of the area and saw for themselves the environment that the children who were so bright and enthusiastic at the coaching session lived in. Prior to this a coaching session had also taken place at the High School near the South African Navy dockyard in Simons Town. This session was on a much smaller scale but the children were no less appreciative and in one of the most picturesque locations imaginable for a rugby pitch, high above False Bay, members of the RNRU and Royal Australian Navy RU ran a combined coaching clinic. The RNRU had also partnered with the 'Boots for All' appeal and delivered a strip to their representative in Cape Town. The Patron of the Royal New Zealand Navy Rugby Union and ex All Black Captain Wayne 'Buck' Shelford was at hand to witness the handover of kit before the fixture between the RN and the RNZN. Although the memories of retaining the Commonwealth Cup will remain with all of the RN party for the rest of their lives the thoughts of Khayelitsha will be there also and the hope that through rugby the lives of those children coached by the RN will be in some way be enhanced.