Star player has every reason to dream big

Spine Road High rugby player Raeeqah Hendricks shares a light moment with friends following a training session at school earlier this week.

While South Africa is still celebrating the success of Banyana Banyana at the Women’s African Cup of Nations, in Morocco, at the weekend, Raeeqah Hendricks, 18, from Tafelsig and a Grade 12 pupil at Spine Road High School, has every reason to believe that she too can taste similar success, albeit on the rugby field.

After all, no dream is too big for a girl from Mitchell’s Plain, considering that two key players in coach Desiree Ellis’ winning squad, striker Jermaine Seoposenwe and midfield maestro Thalea Smidt, also come from the area. Just like the young speedster, they too were once part of national junior setups.

Raeeqah, along with teammate and WP under-18 vice captain, Leigh Fortuin, from Rocklands, attended a Junior Springbok Women’s Camp at Paarl Gimnasium earlier this month and were part of the WP squad that took part in the national under-18 Girls’ Rugby week in Welkom, in the Free State, in June.

Equally comfortable with the ball in hand and on foot, the speedy wing said she was introduced to the game five years ago by her then soccer coach and current sports co-ordinator at Spine Road High, Judith Fransman.

Although usually last in line to get the ball, her ability to spot a gap, to think on her feet and to put in a tough tackle when needed, helped her side to victory and Team WP finishing the top score overall at the National Girls’ Week.

“As a wing I need to be a quick thinker, because I’m on the end and I barely get the ball which gives me time to read the game,” she said.

The young player says more should be done to promote the women’s game at grassroots level. ”Make it open to all clubs and clubs should also do more to promote women’s rugby. If all clubs have a women’s team it will give women’s rugby a boost,” she said.

The youngster’s athleticism caught the coaches’ eyes early on, said Fransman who has known her since her arrival at Spine Road in 2018.

“She was a big fan of soccer, but I then saw she had amazing potential in other sports and registered her for girls’ rugby. She and Leigh are the only players from Mitchell’s Plain who were selected to be part of the WP and Junior Springbok team,” said Fransman, who described her as an all-round achiever, equally good in the 200 and 400m sprints and especially in the 150m hurdles.

“She’s very committed and dedicated, always open to learning new things and hungry for game time. She’s always asking how she can improve her skills, working out ways to overcome challenges and that’s what makes her an outstanding player,” Fransman said.

I would never have thought that she would come this far in rugby,” said her mother Moeneeba, “ but I am very proud of her achievements.”

Her children’s biggest supporter, Hendricks, a single parent, is quick to thank the school’s coaches and her boss for allowing her time off to attend her daughter’s matches whenever possible. “Raeeqah started off playing soccer for the school and coach Fransman just messaged me one day to ask if Raeeqah can play rugby.

“I am very grateful to coach Fransman and coach Murphy who pushed Raeeqah to where she is today,” she said, referring to the former Spine Road sports co-ordinator Shafiek Murphy, who died in 2020. Murphy played a key role in promoting women’s rugby in Mitchell’s Plain and across the city and helped a number of players earn provincial and national colours.

Raeeqah looks to pas the ball during an impromptu touch rugby match, at school.