Rhodes eyes Varsity ShieldDate Released: Sun, 12 August 2012 08:00 +0200
QONDAKELE Sompondo is a man on a mission who plans to take Rhodes Rugby to new heights. Sompondo, manager at alumni relations at Rhodes University, is the new rugby coach on campus. While his initial plan is to get Rhodes rugby into the Varsity Shield competition, his long-term goal is to make Rhodes rugby the talking point of Grahamstown sport.
Sompondo also plans, within the next four years, to make it the dream of local schoolboys to play for the Rhodes rugby club. If the name Sompondo means nothing to you, he is the former coach of African Bombers and the Eastern Province U19s. He also took the once struggling Motherwell Rugby Club from the a lower league up two further club leagues. Last year he was assistant coach for the EP Kings Invitation XV. Sompondo's three main goals for Rhodes rugby are to take the U21 rugby side from the B section of the Eastern Province Rugby (EPR) league to the A section; to qualify for the EPR Grand Challenge league and in two months to build a team to qualify for the Varsity Shield.
This year is one in every three that universities around the country get to qualify for the Varsity Shield or Varsity Cup. The rules state that a promotion/relegation period is held only every three years, so 2013 and 2014 will not see any movement of clubs across the two competitions. Because of previous results from University Sports South Africa (USSA) competitions, Rhodes Rugby are in the C section of the Varsity standings. There are eight teams in this section which will take part in the USSA rugby champs from 2 to 6 July.
The overall winner in the C section will face the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who finished bottom of the latest University Shield competition, in a promotion/relegation match. Sompondo believes the players in the rugby club at the moment are able to win their way into the Varsity Shield. While this is a big challenge, the club is currently participating in compulsory Adams Cup (EPR league) fixtures. These are games the side must play in order to compete in the EPR leagues. Sompondo points out that rugby players usually achieve excellence in the sport between the ages of 18 and 22, and these are the players he will be working with. For this reason, he believes he can turn Rhodes rugby into a talking point among South African universifies, as well as in Grahamstown. This is his four-year plan. And how does Sompondo plan to get the party-loving students to play ball? "Accountability.
I hope to bring strong accountability to Rhodes rugby," Sompondo says. Sompondo says he will not be able to take Rhodes rugby to the top by himself and has called on Grahamstonians with expertise in various aspects of the game to visit his training sessions and offer their help. He says locals are also encouraged to join in practice sessions and could find a spot in one of the sides during an EPR league game. However, he says there will be a quota on non-students. Rhodes rugby training sessions take place every day from Monday to Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on the Rhodes Great Field.