New Madibaz rugby coach David Manuel’s long-term aim is to create a sustainable legacy at the highest level.
The former professional player, who turned out at fullback for the Blue Bulls, Griquas and Free State, assumed his position in November and has been focused on putting the building blocks in place for his plans.
“Ultimately I’m here with the mandate to rebuild the system and that needs time,” said the 41-year-old.
“The Nelson Mandela University is a beautiful place, situated right next to the sea, and the objective is to build a legacy here that will outlast me and that will be a lighthouse for the next generation of student-athletes to follow.”
Madibaz were relegated from the Varsity Cup after the 2018 competition and competed in the lower tier Varsity Shield in 2019 and 2020. By ending on top of the combined Shield log from those two seasons, they were promoted to the Varsity Cup section last year.
They failed to win any of their matches in the Cup competition in 2021, ending the season at the bottom of the log with five points.
After a promising playing career was cut short by persistent injuries in 2004, Manuel turned to coaching, becoming part of the UP-Tuks programme and then working in various capacities with the Blue Bulls provincial teams from 2012 to 2020.
According to him, he had gained plenty of experience at the Pretoria-based outfit and his move to Gqeberha was because of a desire to “build something new”.
“There is so much talent in the Eastern Cape and I would love to play some sort of role in developing it,” said Manuel.
“I have been using this period to get to know and understand the Madibaz culture. A lot has happened over the years and I’m assessing the situation to ensure that I make informed decisions moving forward.
“We need to stabilise the squad and see how we can rebuild the team and the system for the next three years.”
Having worked with both successful and not so successful teams during his coaching career has given him an understanding of what it takes to make it to the top.
“I can package that to tailor-make it for the Madibaz system.”
Manuel added it was important to have established principles to underpin one’s coaching methods.
“My philosophy covers three points – people need to feel safe on all levels, there must be a connection, and there must be a shared purpose.
“If people feel safe, they will be able to become the best versions of themselves. That will lead to a better connection among peers and result in a shared purpose.
“I believe that transfers onto the rugby field.”
Manuel matriculated from Waterkloof in Pretoria in 1998 and immediately received a professional contract with the Blue Bulls as an 18-year-old.
After playing in the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup for the Blue Bulls in 2001, he turned out for Griquas in 2002 and for Free State Cheetahs in 2003.
“I then had an injury and went back to Pretoria to play for UP-Tuks while studying sport science,” he said.
“I had one more attempt with the Blue Bulls in 2004 but another injury pushed me into early retirement.”
Manuel started his coaching career with the Tuks Rugby Academy and became part of the Varsity Cup management team under former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer in 2011.
“That team lost in the final against UCT but we won the Varsity Cup in 2012 and 2013.”
Since his arrival, he acknowledged, preparations had been challenging due to exams and Covid-19 regulations.
“It was hard to get everyone together for an extended period, but we can only control the controllable and give it all that we can.
“We are doing everything possible to make sure we will be as competitive as we can be when the tournament starts in February.”