Springboks give kids a kick-start

Former Springbok rugby player Ashwin Willemse, who started a foundation to raise money for takkies for underprivileged children, said that having worked in poor communities such as Manenberg and Lavender Hill has made him understand their needs better.Willemse was speaking at a fundraising event for the Green Smile Foundation in Cape Town. The event was also attended by the former SA coach Peter de Villiers, Western Province coach Alistair Coetzee, former Springboks James Dalton and Bolla Conradie, and injured Bok wing Bryan Habana.

SPORT forms a central part of activities offered at LHSS. A number of learners have achieved provincial and national colours. Athletics, cricket, netball, cross-country, soccer, rugby, touch-rugby, table tennis and cycling are all available.In addition to this, through the Department of Culture and Sport (DCAS) the schools offers 5-a-side soccer (run by 2 coaches) every afternoon after school. Approximately 100 learners take part in the various sporting codes offered by the school.

Willemse said that after doing rugby clinics in impoverished communities for the past 10 years, he and boxing legend Brian Mitchell decided to start the foundation. “Later I also contacted my good friend (former Springbok wing) Breyton (Paulse) who, without hesitation, agreed to also be part of this initiative. It was during the training of the kids that I realised how passionate they are about playing rugby. When I was at Lavender Hill High School I was struck by the words of the principal Faseeg Manie, who said: “If we fail at Lavender Hill High School these boys will become the people who hijack others tomorrow.’ So, don’t tell me that the kids of Lavender Hill and Manenberg cannot do it,” Willemse said.

De Villiers said that he believed that the Foundation could make a difference. “I admire Ashwin for the work he is doing,” he said.

Paulse was the one who inspired Willemse to become a Springbok player when he one day delivered a motivational talk when Ashwin was at high school. “Later I would send him a few tracksuits and boots of mine because I could see that he wanted to make something of his life. And today he is also giving back to his communities.”

Coetzee added that the role of coaching clinics is also very important. “This programme is going to go a long way,” he said.
Virgin Active has helped equip a gym at Lavender High School. Ross Faragher-Thomas, the managing director of Virgin Active, said he felt proud that “we can make a contribution in the community”.


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