At the start of the year when the NextGenXV team sat down to plot the strategy for 2021 one of the subjects that came up frequently was the need for more exposure in the women’s game.
But perhaps where more than any sport rugby has an opportunity is the advancement of the women’s game, being a young sport professionally the structures can be put in place right now to ensure growth opportunities for both the men’s and women’s games.
We here at NextGenXV have made it our business to cover grassroots rugby and as such we have decided that a large part of what we intend to promote in the future will be both the men’s and women’s side of the game and what better way to start off than to interview the Queen of School Rugby herself Elne Kirton.
Hi Elne, thanks for joining us today. When we first encountered your instagram account we had no idea it was run by a young female. Is this often the case?
Hi Tom. It is my absolute pleasure and thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Yes this is definitely the case most of the time. I still get people saying ‘sir’, but I do understand as most people will think it will be a man. I really started SkoleRugby! to show my passion for schools rugby. I have always had a big passion for rugby but in 2017 when I relocated to Pretoria, the schools rugby there just had me from the start and after a year of thinking how can I become part of this, the instagram idea just came up
and I have to say, my friends played such a big role in promoting the page.
I never knew it will “explode” the way it did and I am super grateful for the support from everyone I received. As I had to communicate with coaches, team managers and players, they realized that I am a young female living my dream and my passion for such an incredible sport. I just have to thank every coach and management staff member with whom I worked with in Pretoria for supporting my rugby dream and when SkoleRugby! started
they supported me from day 1 and they are still checking up on me and always shows interest in what I’m achieving. To get back to your question, yes people still think it is a man, but I am sure most of them know me by now as I am trying to get more involved in schools all over.
Have you always been a rugby fan? Who was responsible for you having an interest in the game?
Since the age of 6/7 rugby became a big part of my life. My dad is a rugby fanatic and I always wondered why he is screaming at the TV when a certain team plays. So I started watching the game with him and just like that, my passion maybe got bigger than his. In our house, on weekends when it is rugby time, everyone knows not to bother me as it is game
time. In my Matric year (2016) I got asked by our first team coach if I want to be the first rugby teams manager, I started crying as I knew this is just one step closer to a rugby dream. Straight after matric I got the opportunity to join the Blue Bulls TuksRugby academy, being the only and first girl, as a team manager. This was an experience of a lifetime as I got to do
what I love. I had my Boksmart, Coaching and Refereing Level 1 done in that year. I volunteerd at the TuksRugby offices and got the opportunity to manage the Tuks u20 team for 2 years. Each player showed respect towards me every single time and I can’t thank them enough for being like family!
What sports did you play in school?
I played Netball.
What are you currently doing? Are you a student or working?
I am currently studying towards my BEd Degree in the Foundation Phase and I am working as a student intern at a school. I am privileged enough to coach and still show my passion for Rugby at this school.
With well over 10,000 followers you are one of the biggest school rugby accounts on instagram. Was this always the goal?
To be honest, I never thought that the page will be such a success. I never worried about the amount of followers, as long as I can promote players and do the best I can for them, I am happy. I just don’t see them as followers; I see them as supporters, as most of them really support me in what I do. My goal is just to make schools rugby bigger and help the players in all possible ways.
Players love recognition and I want to show them that I am always there to help, to post achievements and give them recognition. I am really thankful for all the support I have received in these 3 years and without my supporters, this would not have been a success and I am SUPER excited to see what the future holds for SkoleRugby! My merchandise is not just a brand, but for the players to know that we are a family and when
they wear something that says SkoleRugby! They show others that they are part of something special because we are a family. Even though I don’t know half of them, my followers feels like family.
What were the difficulties in starting off your instagram account?
The day I started the page, I first had difficulties to think of a name. I sat and watched the Grant Khomo and thought that I need to start something to get schools rugby out there. I knew I wanted to start something fun, a page where players can interact and have fun, nothing serious. Still we are having FUN!! SkoleRugby! Just came to mind and I took a random painstroke, wrote skolerugby on and started telling some players I know.
I knew if I want people to know about SkoleRugby! I had to do something. I gained 1000 followers in one day and later that year I had this small awards, which I only held as something fun and I really think that boosted me as I really did my best to make it a success. After that, I tried my best to keep the followers in the loop about schools rugby happenings all over. Social media was my best friend and still is, as I have to stay updated on all new happenings and what happened at the games.
By attending games helped me as I got to talk to others about skolerugby and I had the opportunity to be live on social media by posting a story that says where skolerugby is on that day. To get to you question, To get to you question, I think my only difficulty was at first to think of a name and after that with hard work, everything flowed.
Having a platform such as yours surely means a lot of people try and get inside info on your knowledge of players. How do you respond to this?
I barely get questions like this, but mostly, with permission, when players gets signed with Unions or achieve something, I post it on my platform and in this way everyone gets informed.
What are the challenges you face as a content creator?
Overall I have to say my supporters are so supportive and really support me in any possible way. They are always up for a challenge or keen to send me scores, rugby photos etc.
You get some who never likes others to succeed and tries every possible way to bring you down and there has been some who tried BUT because SkoleRugby! Is a family and we support each other, my followers supporters really goes the extra mile for SkoleRugby! We are one family who stands together and I really have to thank everyone for all the support I have gained in these 3 years and for believing in me and my dream for skolerugby!!
What are your long term ambitions?
For myself, I want to be a qualified BEd educator who coaches and help young players develop their love for this sport! Obviously I want SkoleRugby! to grow bigger and bigger, but I feel that I am on the right track. Success is baby steps and hard work and I am always up for any challenge.
With hard work, I know I will be successful and to get more involved with schools will give me the opportunity to promote schools and players from all over. I want to be able to travel to schools, watch games, interact with players etc. This is all plans and dreams, but I put my trust in God and know that His plan for my life is something amazing!!
What do you think we need to do to encourage more young women to get involved in rugby? Do you think there is room for more schoolgirl rugby?
There is definitely room for schoolgirl rugby. The past few years clubs and universities really helped girl’s rugby to grow and get into the rugby picture. With my 3 years in Pretoria, I got introduced to the Deltadrone Tuks women 7s and the effort the coaches, management and girls went through is amazing! Having girls from other countries playing against our girls made me realize that there is room for girl’s rugby!
Young girls in schools are given the opportunities to join a rugby club as more rugby clubs invests in ladies rugby. Over the years, I got a lot of messages on my personal account, regarding girls asking me how do they do what I did (the management part). On this question, I had to tell them that this is not just a job to be amongst players, but you live your passion for an amazing sport and it required hard work!! There is a lot of girls wanting to play this sport or get involved but don’t know how or what and by going to University open days, clinics etc. will definitely help them to get more encouraged as there is always someone from Rugby who can assist you and show you into the right direction.
You can view Elne’s instagram page and website in the links below, she really is doing great things for the school game and deserves your support: