Hayley Landau’s return to touch rugby

By Jaime Uranovsky

After more than a year’s hiatus owing to the pandemic, women’s touch rugby is finally being played again, says Hayley Landau, who has been involved in the sport since 1997.

While women’s touch rugby is under-recognised in South Africa, various inter-provincial tournaments and social matches are played all over the country. Most notably, Hayley was one of 16 women in the over-27 team who represented South Africa in the 2019 World Cup in Malaysia. Hayley explains that six team members were in their 40s. Since there were not enough players to make up an over-35 team, Hayley tried out for the over-27 team instead. “Before the World Cup,” she explains, “we had played in the interprovincial tournament as a Western Province B side, with our emphasis on developing the younger girls and helping them improve. So it wasn’t as competitive as we were used to. We hadn’t played for a while, so it took a year of hard dedication and training.”

Hayley recalls her time at the World Cup, “I remember walking up and down the side-line, feeling emotional and thinking ‘this is it’. My dream, at 42, had come true. I’m a Springbok and I’m representing my country.”

More recently, Hayley played both for Western Province and for the Springboks, when they beat a visiting French team 12-2 and 11-1 in Cape Town in April. Hayley notes, “Their captain said playing against us twice on that day was better than two years of training for them. We always ask how we fare against Australia and New Zealand, who are in a completely different league, so it’s amazing that France views our touch to be on such a high level.”

Currently, Hayley says the goal is to get people playing again. Internal tournaments are being scheduled and she is hoping that the European Championships will take place next year, but she is otherwise gearing up for the 2023 World Cup.

For Hayley, touch rugby is pivotal,“The girls are wonderful, inclusive and warm people. It’s a family and we all have the same goal. Most of us are moms … so we all just go there as individuals, to play in a team where you have to work hard in a competitive environment. Everybody tries their best and encourages one another.”

• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2021 issue – Download here.

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