Former Springbok captain Mandisa Williams finds calling in coaching

Former Springbok captain Mandisa Williams finds calling in coaching

Bulls Daises assistant coach Mandisa Williams says she has finally found her calling following her appointment as forwards coach in February.

The Blue Bulls roped in the former Springbok Women captain-turned-commentator to assist Hayden Groepes on a two-year contract, before announcing their 35-member squad of the first female rugby players to be given professional contracts in South Africa.

Williams is adamant these past three months have been the most fulfilling of her professional career despite being a first-time coach. 

"This is where I belong", she told SABC Sport. 

For the native of the Eastern Cape, a province long considered the home of rugby and characterised as one with a rich history of developing some of the best players in the country and the world, this newfound passion is more than just the four lines on a pitch.

"It's sharing my journey with the girls. I make them understand what rugby means in South Africa. What they are able to do and what are the chances they get in rugby, more than the time we had. It has been going well, and I'm still growing. I'm nowhere near where I'm supposed to be, but each day as it comes.” 

Williams captained both country and province in her 17-year career, competed in three Rugby World Cups and was named Player of the Year by SA Rugby in 2006.

As passionate as she is about this new venture, no one is more astonished at how her life has turned out.

"I've always said I will never take up coaching. Even if it came with million dollars, [but now] I have to take my words back. It's been amazing, I have no other words to put it, but the journey for me I can see it moving faster and further. There's a bright future for me in coaching.” 

After retiring in 2016, the sports management graduate became a rugby commentator and analyst, both in English and in her mother tongue, IsiXhosa. 

“It's not even six months that I've been coaching, but just the knowledge I have. Even when I'm tested right on the spot, I can manoeuvre something. Not taking anything away from the job I had before, but I think if one can say 'they were born for this', that's me." 

Williams and Groepes have led the Daisies to two wins in two games in their Inter-Provincial League (previously Women's Premier Division) debut season. And Williams credits her coaching confidence to her background as a former all-rounder.

"I don't doubt myself. As a forwards coach, I've played as a loose forward, a lock and as a prop at times. So I know exactly what to teach the ladies and the technical aspect of the game.”