After two flights and a long but comfortable bus journey, it was great to finally meet Mike and Linda Collinson when they picked me up from the drop off point.
I stayed the first night at their house enjoying some home cooked food and my first taste of some local beer, finding out more about what I would be doing during my time with Skrum. I was immediately made aware of the passion of the charity and was excited about my month here.
Since my first night, I have been staying at Sondzelas Backpackers which is within the Mlilwane National Park – which is incredible! It is not unusual for me to see zebra, impala or even hippo on my small journey to and from the office in the company car I have been given (a bright red bicycle!)
The first day of my time here I was thrown straight into mixed coaching and refereeing at a local schools under-16s tournament as well as scoring a debut try in a game we got involved in – perhaps I am a little too proud of being able to outrun 14 year olds!
I am working with two Swazis who work for Mike at Skrum – Wilson and Malindi – who have been great in getting me involved and have given me my Swazi name – “Thoba”. Apparently, this directly translated means “soothe” or “look after” however I am a little dubious about this and think they may have stitched me up!
The first day enabled me to see how much the kids over here love rugby – both the boys and the girls – and how it is being made readily available to them by the charity through coaching, not only the players but the coaches too to maintain them playing.
This week I have also been introduced to different figures who Skrum must maintain a close relationship with -such as the Sports Council and the Ministry.
We are also in the process of organising a national 7s tournament for the top 16 rugby schools in the country – watch this space!
On Saturday, I was asked to help out at the training of the national team as they prepare for their fully “Swazi” team match against Botswana in two weekends time. The standard really impressed me considering some of them had only been playing for 6 months. At one point during the training, one of the players said he recognised me and it turned out that I had played against him whilst on rugby tour 8 years ago in South Africa!
Wilson and Malindi have also taken me for my first experience of a night out in Malkerns – the local town where I am staying near. They introduced me to their friends, the local street foods and the range of local beers. we also managed to find a bar where we could watch the English football match against Sweden as well as catching the English loss to the Springboks the evening after.
All in all, the first week has been superb and I am looking forward to what the next three weeks have to offer