Biza is back — Lithuania national coach returns to Upper Eden

Date: Tuesday 2nd August 2016

NTANDO Manyosha, Lithuania’s director of rugby and national team coach has made a welcome return visit to Kirkby Stephen and Upper Eden Rugby Club.

In 2013, Ntando —known as Biza — was a participant in the South African rugby union exchange program which has run in the UK since 2002, with Upper Eden being one of the original participating clubs.

After leaving Eden, Biza was appointed to the national post in Lithuania, coaching and developing all aspects of the sport nationwide. Since his arrival in Lithuania the national team has been unbeaten and has gained promotion in the European Nations Cup for 2017, while its national sevens team competes in the European Grand Prix, aiming to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Biza is a former professional player in South Africa, having represented both Natal Sharks and EP Kings in both the Currie and Vodacom cup competitions. He later became a development officer for South Africa Rugby Union.

At the recent United World Games in Austria, where he was coaching, he met up with John Cooper, from Upper Eden Rugby Club, and asked to revisit the district to reacquaint himself with old friends, check on the club’s progress and spend some more time in the area.

The club was delighted to accept his offer. Director of rugby Colin Wolstenholme said: “This was too good an opportunity to miss. Biza is a coach of national standing, an amazing character who made a big impact when he was last here. We look forward to gaining from his knowledge and will most certainly be extending him a true Kirkby Stephen welcome.”

Speaking about his time in Eden, Biza said: “Being able to coach outside of South Africa has allowed me to develop my professional skills in a different environment with its various challenges and levels.

“It has given me an insight into the minds and culture of a different group of people through the medium of rugby. I would like to thank all the players and officials at Upper Eden Rugby Club and the staff and learners at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Penrith who gave me this opportunity, and also to all the people of Kirkby Stephen and Eden who welcomed me with open arms.”

The South Africa Rugby Union international development program sees young, talented rugby players and coaches from the traditionally disadvantaged areas of South Africa given the opportunity to spend between three and six months in the UK.

They are hosted locally, coach rugby and share their culture within the community, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby grammar schools and within local primary schools linked with the Eden Valley Sports Partnership. Becky Wolstenholme, development manager for the partnership said: “I am delighted Biza is back. We will certainly make the most of his visit and have organised for him to deliver some coaching sessions in a number of partner primary schools in Eden. He is a fantastic ambassador and role model for our aspiring young people.”

To date, the program has seen some 300 young players and coaches from South Africa visit the UK on exchange, as well as national and international officials, the most recent being Oregan Hoskins, World Rugby deputy president, who spent time in Eden during last year’s Rugby World Cup. It has received national coverage and plaudits in South Africa.

Richard de Jager, South Africa’s rugby international program manger, said: “This program has always been close to my heart. It has been my pleasure to have been involved with both the Upper Eden club and the people of Eden for so many years; they have always looked after anyone I have sent to the UK and I know they always will. It is an exchange and so we will always welcome young people from Eden to South Africa, as Oliver Bennett, from Kirkby Stephen, is at the moment.”

Ivor Allonby, Upper Eden Rugby Club chairman, said: “Once again it is a privilege to welcome our regular South African visitors, not simply as coaches or players, but also for their impact on the community. I think everyone involved in the program is rewarded.”

Biza is currently coaching at Sharks (South Africa) academy camps in Irealand and will return to Eden on 6th August, staying until the end of September. Later on this year, the club will welcome a young player from rural Eastern Cape and a coach from Kwa-Zulu Natal.

A two-day sports camp (rugby and football) is being organised at the club in late August for 10-15 year-olds, run by the South African coaches. Contact John Cooper on 07900504123 for details.

The club welcomes players or coaches to any club session (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to participate or to watch and ask questions of Biza.

Likewise, any local companies or organisations who would like to know more or wish to have a visit from Biza should contact John Cooper on the number above.