UP celebrates women in sport during brunch event

Posted on April 21, 2024

TuksSport recently hosted a brunch on Hillcrest campus at the University of Pretoria (UP) in honour of #WomenInSport. Reputable athletes and UP alumni were in attendance, such as rugby star Libbie Janse van Rensburg, Springbok Women and Provincial Player of the Year 2023; Jenny van Dyk, coach of the Spar Proteas netball team; and Vannes-Marie du Toit, a former TuksNetball and Proteas player.

“We are gathered today not only to celebrate athleticism but also to honour the profound impact of women in the world of sport who possess strength, resilience and determination,” said SuperSport broadcaster Layla Arrison during her welcome remarks. “As we break bread together, let’s also break barriers and work towards a future where every young girl’s dream of sporting greatness is not just a possibility but an inevitability.”

Asked about some of the challenges faced by women in sport, Janse van Rensburg noted that the biggest one – apart from financial support –was the state of women’s rugby at grassroots level.

“Unfortunately, it’s not like other sport where girls are playing it at school,” she said. “Young girls aren’t really introduced to rugby at a young age. At the moment, many women rugby players are experiencing rugby for the first time at university level, unlike men, who have been taking the knock from an early age. However, the future of rugby as a sport for women looks bright. As athletes, we have to work harder to introduce rugby at earlier stages for young girls.”  

Relaying her story of how she had made the national netball team, Du Toit recalled that at the time, the only gateway to play for the nationals was through university.

“You had to play for a university because there weren’t independent clubs that could get you there, and I wanted to represent my country,” she said. “I am grateful to UP for the academic bursary that assisted with my BCom degree and me resulted in me joining the amazing TuksNetball team. UP gave me the foundation and a platform to launch my career in sport. I will be forever grateful for that.” 

On student athletes balancing their studies with sport, Nicola Macleod, TuksSport Deputy Director of coaching and performance, said that UP’s High Performance Centre tries to impress upon students the importance of maintaining this balance.

“At the end of the day, we want them to walk across that graduation stage, having conquered the balance between sport and academia,” she said.  

Macleod added that they work with faculties and departments, and help student athletes with the balance because they take a lot of strain from training and tournaments.

“It’s important to balance schoolwork and sport,” emphasised coach Van Dyk. “It’s also important to have a strong support structure – friends and family who believe in you and push you to be great. The mental part is important and it goes hand in hand with discipline; if you lack discipline, it is going to be hard to wake up for that 6am session. As coaches, we need to be understanding and encourage our student athletes.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences