Meghan Phillips, who helped Tuks retain the Varsity Athletics title through her speedy exploits, has now set herself the challenge of trying to help the Delta Drone Tuks women’s rugby 7s retain their Stanislas 7s title in France.
It’s a big challenge, especially when one considers that Phillips hasn’t yet played one sevens rugby game! In fact, until this point, she’s only attended eight team practice sessions.
Still, Riaan van der Merwe (sevens head coach) can’t help but be excited about his latest convert’s abilities. ‘Meghan has got speed and big match temperament, and those are two of the most important qualities to be successful in any sport. I think she’s going to score a lot of tries.’
Van der Merwe’s confidence sprouts from what Philippa van der Merwe achieved last year while touring with the Delta Drone Tuks women’s rugby 7s in France. The former sprinter scored six tries. What made it remarkable was that she too had played no rugby until she arrived in France and only trained twice with the team before going on tour.
However, Phillips does not want to go on record and make bold statements about scoring try after try. ‘I’ll be honest about being slightly nervous, especially considering I’ve never played a rugby game but at the same time, getting the opportunity to play in France is exciting. The only thing I can promise is that I will give it my best.
‘Hopefully, I won’t disappoint my teammates,’ said the engineering student.
The reason why Phillips switched sporting codes is that she’s always game to try something new. She admits the prospect of being tackled does not bother her, but she still has to get her mind around tackling other players.
‘Running with the ball and getting tackled is all about adrenaline. Going for a tackle is a conscious decision. I’ll admit so far during our training sessions, I have tried avoiding it.’
Phillips was the captain of the Tuks Varsity athletics team. She and her 4x100m relay teammates – Valeska Nel, Ria Moloi and Taylon Bieldt – were instrumental in ensuring Tuks won overall. If it wasn’t for them winning the relay at both meetings, Tuks might not have retained the title.
Two weeks ago at the USSA Championships in Sasolburg, the relay team set a new meeting record, running 45.39 seconds.
For now, Phillips is set on playing rugby, but next year she hopes to compete in athletics as well.
The Delta Drone Tuks women’s rugby 7s will be playing the Stanislas 7s (19-20 May) and the Centrale 7s (22-23 May) in France before going on to play the Benidorm 7s (26-27 May) in Spain.
Only five of the players who represented Tuks last year are in this touring squad. However, Van der Merwe is quietly confident the team will give a good account of themselves.
‘I’m impressed with how quickly the latest recruits have mastered the finer intricacies of the game.’
Photo: Phillips in training action with Tuks, by Reg Caldecott