Springbok Women captain Latsha: Time for a discussion on a league

14 August 2020 - 10:40 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Babalwa Latsha of South Africa with ball possession during the Women's World Cup qualifier match between South Africa and Kenya at Bosman Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Brakpan, South Africa.
Babalwa Latsha of South Africa with ball possession during the Women's World Cup qualifier match between South Africa and Kenya at Bosman Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Brakpan, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Springbok Women’s captain Babalwa Latsha says South Africa should start having a serious conversation about the establishment of a professional rugby league sooner rather than later.

Latsha‚ who is a finalist in Athlete of the Year‚ Woman of the Year and Global Woman in Sport at the Momentum gsport Awards‚ said rugby should emulate the SA Football Association (Safa)‚ which started a National Women’s League last year.

“In my personal opinion‚ I think we should at least start the conversation of having a professional league in South Africa‚” she said.

“Women’s football has set a beautiful example for us by establishing a national league and there is a positive that many Banyana Banyana players are plying their trade abroad.

“We’ve developed women’s rugby quite tremendously over the years. We have established Women’s Youth Training Centres across the country and I therefore have reason to believe there has been an amazing spike in the number of women participating in the sport.

“We therefore have a foundation to start from‚ so I am hopeful that we will ultimately reach a level where we can have a fully professional league.”

Just like many elite athletes around the world‚ Latsha has been negatively affected by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic‚ but she said she is focusing on what she can control.

“The lockdown has been tough on everyone because it has affected different sectors and facets of our society and life including that of my own. However‚ I embrace that which I can control and that is my mental health‚ physical health and how I approach this unfamiliar time of my life‚” she said‚ while voicing her disappointment at having her stint with Spanish side SD Eibar Femenino cut short due of Covid-19.

“Yes I was a little bit disappointed‚ but looking at the bigger picture I understand that it was necessary. My safety and that of others is of critical importance‚ and I still value the time I had with SD Eibar. I look forward to having another season with them in the near future.”

Because of Covid-19‚ the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand next year remains threatened and Latsha admitted it will be disappointing not to have the tournament but priority must be the safety of players.

“If you were to take a step back and look at the situation holistically and realistically as well‚ Covid-19 is a global pandemic‚ and it is therefore a global problem. And therefore we need to be cautious in making sure that we are safe as the number one priority so that we may be able to live to play another World Cup.

“So of course‚ it would be disappointing if the World Cup were to be cancelled‚ however‚ the main priority is the health and the lives of human beings.

“I think our biggest challenge as a point of departure is the perception that society has of women who play rugby‚ so we need to change the perception from what it is to one that rugby is for everyone.

“And the sooner we change the perception‚ the more support we can garner going into a major competition such as the Rugby World Cup. So I would like to encourage South Africans‚ Africans and the whole world to start supporting women’s rugby ferociously.

“Now is the time that we need all the support we can get from our fellow citizens and the whole world. We are looking forward to heading out to New Zealand for the World Cup‚ so it is a very exciting time.”

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