The passionate affinity for rugby in a country like South Africa is palpable. When Maties won the inaugural FNB Varsity Cup in 2008 and the subsequent two titles thereafter – a record that remains intact to this day – it set in motion the success that would spill over into the Maties Women’s side some ten years later.
Bianca Augustyn, Maties captain, hoisted the first-ever Varsity Cup Women’s trophy aloft in 2023 when they beat UJ Women 63-9 in Bellville. But this success started back in 2018 when Head Coach Johann Zeier put together the plan that would help the Maties Women become a champion side.
A Civil Engineering student Augustyn has represented the country at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. She was part of the South Africa Women’s Sevens team and is currently completing her Master’s dissertation. Rugby has always been part of Augustyn’s formative years. Being the only child, she mostly played with her cousins and oftentimes this would include playing rugby in the streets of Vredenburg.
“Growing up I always loved the sport and played some street rugby with my cousins,” Augustyn told Maties Sport. “But I officially started playing for the university at the beginning of my second year.”
For the Hopefield High alumna, it is a rugby career she wishes to pursue despite having a strong passion and zest for civil engineering. Her aspirations are great and the versatile back does not rule out playing rugby overseas.
“I want to play rugby as long as I can, but unfortunately, that is not sustainable forever, hence I am working hard now to make sure I’ll be able to put myself in the best position. I don’t like to plan that far ahead, because life is unpredictable and a lot like a rugby game, you have to adjust to what’s in front of you.”
With a qualification in civil engineering in her pocket, Augustyn has the world at her feet, with options aplenty. She hopes to ignite the same passion and fervency for rugby in other women through her playing style and candour.
“If I had to say where I see myself in 5 years, it would be playing club rugby abroad and just making the most out of every opportunity [that comes my way]. At the end of the day, I will have my Master’s degree to fall back on if things don’t work out the way that I want them to.
“Another goal is to jog out as a Springbok player and sing the National Anthem, which definitely also falls into the 5 – 10-year plan. Also, if the opportunity [should] arise to play abroad I would consider it.”
“I aim to inspire young girls and women around me by being an example and building those up around me, being enthusiastic about sports and life.”
Despite concerted and valuable efforts made by sports federations, clubs, schools, and universities, women in sport are still having to shove their way to the front of the queue. Sponsorships, marketing budget allocation, human resources, and equipment are all but hampering the growth we see in other countries like England, Australia, and New Zealand.
Augustyn said: “Women athletes, regardless of the sport, face a number of challenges. One of these factors includes women facing gender inequality in rugby. In general, women’s rugby struggle with sponsorship and that [compounds matters] because how are you supposed to perform when no one is supporting you?
“Rugby is predominantly still seen as a male sport in South Africa, but we are changing the narrative slowly but surely. There is little to no media coverage on women’s rugby at the moment, which would help because the more exposure [you get] the more support you’ll have at the end of the day.”