Unsung heroes are chosen so for many different reasons and deciding on who should be our ‘Unsung Hero’ in each issue is a challenge, as so many people do so much that goes unnoticed from grass roots all the way through to elite level. There is always someone who is doing something that sets them apart though - and this issue it’s Tanushree Pillay, ‘Tanu’ of the South African Rugby program.
Tanu is the manager for not only for the 7’s set-up on world tour each year, but also for the 15’s squad as well, having just finished the World Cup in Paris. This is a big job in itself, but she is also the physio for both teams. In nearly every case there are two people per team to do these jobs. When I asked her why she did it her response was that “the product of women’s Rugby is worth investing in.” What a way of phrasing things and looking at it. Yes, she loves the job, but it’s about more than love for her - it’s about believing in woman’s sport as a product: she is in it for the long haul and sees the dividends now compared to when she started. But it’s about more too; it’s about creating a legacy in South Africa.
Tanu has covered all the major sporting events from World Cup to WSWS to Commonwealth games and Olympics: she is a veteran, but more passionate now than ever. Aside from all this she is more than happy to get into the nuts and bolts of what the two rolesrequire. As manager she has to do all the usual flights, logistics, facilities and schedules as well as using her dual role to get the best out of players. As she says of her vision of care and support of the girls in her charge,“I am striving for better and better for the girls”.
Add to this the role of physio that requires on-field and off-field injury support alongside previous rehab care and post event medicals, there is never a dull moment for her. How does one person do all of this? “A lot of planning and very good understanding between the three person management team that goes everywhere with the girls,” she says. As well as, this she further explained that “...the girls understand that things may take a bit longer in the doing.” This is a family, a community that works with what they have got - and Tanu is right there in the thick of it, loving it by pioneering so the next generation can stand on their shoulders.
Tanu brings a great deal of experience of women and their sport to the Springbok Women’s rugby teams, and an understanding that women’s sport is very different to men’s and needs to be managed differently. Tanu is our ‘Unsung Hero’ for this issue in the truest sense of the word as she dedicates her life to Women’s Rugby, seeing the big picture rather than herself or her world.