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FNB Rhodes’ new coach James Winstanley’s journey to Varsity Shield rugby

The 2023 FNB Varsity Shield is FNB Rhodes’ head coach James Winstanley’s first foray into university rugby in South Africa. And right out of the gate, he got a taste of the competitive nature of the competition when his side was on the receiving end of a 5-87 drubbing by FNB UWC in round 1.


Winstanley ventured onto the rugby scene after being accepted into the Border Rugby Academy before packing his bags for England where he played for the Northampton Saints Academy.


He returned to South Africa after three years in England but shortly after had an opportunity to seek greener pastures once again. What was initially meant to be a two-year stint in Ireland turned into an 11-year excursion.


Within the first two years in Ireland, Winstanley transitioned into coaching and made a career out of taking charge from the sideline.


He says the urge to make a difference in African rugby and its transformation however lured him back home and he couldn’t resist the calling to return to the Eastern Cape, where he previously coached and managed the Border Craven Week team. Last year he was assistant coach to the SA Schools team.


Winstanley says his competitive nature and bringing these elements to the game sets him apart.

“I want to instill the same attitude in the players. I bring a strategic game plan that leverages the team’s strengths and maximizes the weaknesses of the opposition.”

by Aiden Daries

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