CAPE TOWN, May 24 (Reuters) - Laurian Johannes blazed a trail in South Africa when she became the first woman appointed to lead a national team and the coach of the Under-20 women’s side says there are many like her just waiting for the opportunity.
Johannes, 34, who was handed the role on Tuesday , was inspired by South Africa’s triumph on home soil at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and says talent should trump gender when it comes to building a career in the sport.
“There are quite a few female coaches out there in South Africa and I hope now there will be even more,” Johannes said.
“They can now identify with someone who can coach at this level and that should provide motivation for them to grow their careers.”
Johannes, a former tighthead prop in the Springbok team that competed at the 2010 Women’s World Cup in England, believes there is no reason why she could not coach at a higher level in the future, if she is able to prove her credentials.
“I don’t think coaches should be held back by gender, we are as passionate and determined as male coaches so why should we not be given the opportunity if we are good enough?
“Playing the game was one of my big loves, so when my career ended I thought, why not coach? Why shouldn’t I take that opportunity?”
Johannes, a teacher by profession, started coaching in 2015 and has led the Western Province Under-18 women’s side for the last two years.
She will begin next month, leading an Under-20 squad that has been inactive in the last six years into two internationals against neighbouring Zimbabwe and admits her appointment did come a little out of the blue.
“I was very excited when I got the call. I was actually on the field at the time coaching. For me it is something that has been building up since 2015, and I am happy that my success in winning a few national titles has been recognised,” she said.
She likes her teams to play an expansive game, and adds that her days in the front row have not defined her as a coach.
“We try to play a mixed style, to speed up the games at times but then also know the right moments to bring it back to normal play. While I will coach the whole team, I will be giving my assistants a lot of work to do.”
Johannes did not come from a rugby-playing family, but was inspired to take up the sport after watching South Africa’s historic triumph on home soil at the World Cup 24 years ago, their first since they were readmitted to international sport.
“My brother played a little bit, but that was it, I have had no professional rugby players in my family. My passion for the game came from watching the 1995 World Cup,” she said.
“But at that time, there were no options for young girls to play the game, it wasn’t until about 2000 that we got the chance to go out there and show our passion for the game.” (Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Toby Davis)