(Sam Dudman Jones and local Swazi coach Matthew Du Pont)
And so my SKRUM gap year placement began. Despite all of the drama of a possible cyclone over Swaziland I arrived safely and was picked up from the tiny airport by SKRUMs head coach Naomi du Pont. SKRUMs headquarters is only a short distance from the airport so it wasn’t long until I had been introduced to Linda and Michael who run the charity and are well known throughout Swaziland as the mother and father of rugby.
The SKRUM team arrive at 8:00am sharp Monday to Friday where a meeting is held to discuss the days plan. On Mondays the morning is spent at Headquarters to book coaching sessions for the rest of the week, but from then on you can expect to be travelling to every corner of this beautiful country for the entire week. A very important meeting was taking place on Wednesday so myself and the other the coaches (Wilson Dlamini and Matthew du Pont) were off to visit schools and run under 19’s trials all week. The first school I visited we asked for around 40 students to take part in the session, however nearly half the school turned up! We just went through the basic skill of passing and by the end of session the children were singing SKRUM songs and clearly having the time of their lives.
The two trials that I took part in were also a lot of fun. And take my word for it some of these Swazi’s can play serious rugby! Each trail was taken by Matthew while Wilson and I assisted in demonstrations. I found that the Swazi’s have a real passion to learn more so will listen to whatever advice you might have. This made it easy to get really involved with all of the exercises. By the end of each trail a seriously competitive team had been picked. The only problem was that people were so desperate to play rugby some would exaggerate there age!
To finish of an amazing first week the closing match of the Malayisha league (Swaziland’s national rugby league) was to take place on Saturday. I had been asked to be the referee which to be honest I was nerves about. However it ended up being a great experience and according to the other SKRUM coaches I wasn’t a complete disaster. Did get a bit trigger happy with my yellow cards though… The national Newspaper and Swazi TV was there to film the whole day and the level of rugby in the final game was far beyond my original expectations.
I already feel part of the SKRUM family (partly because I’ve been given branded shirts with my name on them) and can’t wait for all the adventures the rest of my placement may bring.