(Published - 7 November 2019)
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) congratulates the Springboks on their incredible triumph at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. We are especially proud of five UWC alumni who played important roles during the competition. They are:
- Springbok scrum-half and nominee of the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award, Herschel Jantjies;
- Physiotherapists Dr Tanushree Pillay and Rene Naylor;
- The first black President of Western Province Rugby Union and South African Rugby Union Executive Council member, Toby Titus; and,
- The First Female South African Rugby Union Executive Council Member and previous UWC Director of Sport, Ilhaam Groenewald.
UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, noted that UWC’s late rugby coach and Springbok icon, Chester Williams, was emphatic that South Africa would lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
“As the University of the Western Cape, we are buoyed by your contribution. This moment in our history – underscored by the first black Springbok captain Siya Kolisi leading the team to victory – is a pinnacle moment for our country,” said Prof Pretorius.
Dr Tanushree Pillay was on the side-line when the Springboks demolished England 32-12 in Yokohama Japan during the final.
“The moment on the podium with the whole team was most memorable. We’ve been together for 20 weeks and that moment was filled with elation and the culmination of the work the team had put in,” she said.
She said another big highlight was watching the Springboks dominate in the scrum. “I definitely think watching the scrum was a highlight, as well as the tries scored by Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi, which is very rare for a final,” she explained.
Pillay said her father, Sundru Pillay, phoned her straight after winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup. “My parents were ecstatic, it definitely takes a village to be able to do this job. My friends and family have been my pillars of strength. I am so happy to bring this honour to them,” she said.
Her journey started modestly as a student physiotherapist, assisting the UWC Rugby Club, and by 2005 she was on duty with the Silvertree and Tygerberg Rugby clubs. Just a year later she was at her first international sports event, as the head physiotherapist at the All Africa Gymnastics Championships which took place in Cape Town.
In 2007, SA Rugby appointed her as the physiotherapist of the Springboks Women’s Sevens, the U20 Women’s and Senior Women’s rugby teams. In 2008, she travelled to China for the Beijing Paralympics. “I was inspired to be a physio when I saw how I could help people who were injured or disabled to improve their lives,” she explained.
In 2015 Dr Pillay was a recipient of the University of the Western Cape’s Chancellor’s Outstanding Alumni Award for her contributions to South African sport. Pillay qualified with a BSc in Physiotherapy in 2003 and completed her Master’s degree in 2006. In 2014 she completed her PhD, which investigated protocols for rehabilitative injury prevention among netball players.
Dr Pillay encourages more women to pursue careers in this male dominated sport and industry. “As a woman I take pride in having been successful in a male dominated sport. My advice for anyone studying or wanting to pursue a career in sport, is hard work. Always do your best, you never know when your chance will come,” she said.