BELA BELA, Limpopo – Elevating the profile of women’s sport has ticked all the boxes for the Blue Bulls rugby union, and Jake White, their Director of Rugby, expects it to do the same for the Sunshine Tour.
This weekend the Sunshine Ladies Tour professionals will be in the field alongside their Sunshine Tour male counterparts and making history by competing for the same R2 million prize money at this year’s first Vodacom Origins of Golf series tournament at Zebula Country Club, which tees off today.
White played in the two-day Vodacom Origins of Golf Pro-Am at Zebula, in which four of the Sunshine Ladies Tour professionals also played, and he said the success of the Bulls Daisies rugby team in the Women’s Premier Division showed what can be achieved when resources and opportunity are given to sportswomen.
The unbeaten Bulls Daisies have enjoyed 11 consecutive bonus point wins as they head into the playoffs in rampant form. The Bulls union made the groundbreaking decision at the start of the season to employ the first fully-professional, contracted women’s squad in South African rugby, and White said they are reaping the benefits from this boutique group of rugby stars.
“What women’s rugby has done for the Bulls brand has been fantastic. They haven’t come close to losing and the team is so transformed, giving even players from the Eastern Cape tremendous opportunity. As the first professional women’s team in the country, they are so far ahead of everyone else and we want to make sure we stay ahead. It’s so nice to be at a union which is proactive and not reactive.
“We want to be leaders in all we do and being ahead of all other teams creates a nice environment at Loftus Versfeld. There’s no doubt the women’s team have got it right and part of my job as Director of Rugby is creating opportunities for the women and the Under-19s, which are just as important as the Vodacom Bulls senior side.
“Vodacom and the Sunshine Tour have done something similarly groundbreaking with women competing for the same amount of prize money as the men for the first time. Vodacom and the Bulls have been leaders in promoting things quickly, making things so much better for women’s sport,” White said.
Playing in pro-ams provides the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning coach, ever the student of what makes top-class sports stars tick, to not only enjoy his love of golf and get his competitive juices flowing, but also enjoy the interaction with professionals to see what lessons he can use for his day job at Loftus Versfeld.
“Golf has been very kind to me over the last couple of years and I’m playing nicely. I also get to meet all these young golfers and it’s like coaching rugby players. Golf is also a really tough job and the margins are so small. I played here with a good pro in CJ du Plessis, who has won out here. Professional golf is pressure at its highest. In golf, if you don’t have a sponsor, how do you go to tournaments, pay for hotels, flights? For golfers, if they don’t make cuts, they don’t earn. It’s a different sort of pressure for them,” White, who plays off a nine handicap, said.