We caught up with Claire de la Harpe who manages many EP Kings players like they were part of her extended family.
This incredible mother of 5 chats to us about the highs and lows of looking after some of the Eastern Cape’s finest.
How did you get into rugby?
I was working with Alan Solomons at Sonnenberg Hoffman & Galombik Attorneys in Cape Town in 1992 and Alan was coaching the UCT 1st XV side. I assisted Alan with various rugby management issues and when he was appointed as head coach of Western Province and the Stormers, Alan asked me to go to Province with him and that is where my involvement in professional rugby started. I really cut my teeth on Super Rugby in the 90’s and it was interesting to be involved at a time when rugby turned professional in SA. Alan left SA to coach Ulster in Northern Ireland in 2001 and we kept in touch through the years. In 2010, Alan again approached me to work with him to set up the rugby structures at the EP Kings and over a period of three years we managed to implement the Kings Academy (with Robbi Kempson) and to get The Southern Kings into Super Rugby. Throughout the years my job has entailed managing the teams and the team management, team operations, media and marketing as well as assisting Alan as Head Coach and Director of Rugby.
Advantages & disadvantages of being a woman in rugby?
Working in professional rugby, a woman needs to be tough and resilient. At times, we are not taken seriously and this can be frustrating. However, most players do respond constructively to having a mother-figure around and I have found some to be quite protective. It is important to be utterly professional at all times and I generally don’t socialise with players or management, unless in a team context.
What is your funniest rugby memory?
Flying back from Kimberley when WP played Griquas in 1998 – the Bok team was announced soon after the match and Robbie Fleck made the side for the first time. He spent the entire flight back to Cape Town on a loudspeaker, announcing to everyone how happy he was to have made the side. Various accents at full strength on the loudspeaker for the entire flight was quite entertaining.
Favourite rugby memory?
Stormers vs Crusaders at Newlands in Cape Town – Super 12 semi-final in 1999 and Barbarians vs Boks at Twickenham in 2008 – I took my kids to London to watch the match.
Where do you live and how big is your family?
I live in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape with my family. My husband, Dave, is an advocate and has a very busy legal practice. We have five children aged 23, 21, 19, 17 and 15 – two girls and three boys.
The younger boys attend Kingswood College in Grahamstown and the older kids are at Rhodes University. We live in town but have a game farm outside Grahamstown.
Do you have time for any hobbies?
Surfing, scuba-diving, flyfishing, hunting and when time permits, reading and gardening. I also train our hunting dogs but downtime is limited as I manage a busy household and am involved with the game farm.
Favourite player you have worked with and why?
Probably Selborne Boome – WP and Stormers lock during the 90’s. A real gentleman as well as being intelligent and very capable on the field, he very seldom made a mistake.
If you could play rugby, what position would you be?
Somewhere in the backline – centre or fullback. Body weight would not cope anywhere else on the field.
Best advice to a young rugby player?
First and foremost – get an education to fall back on once rugby career is done. Also, hard work and sacrifice always pays off, so put in the hours. Learn to be a team player and never let a mistake on the field hamper the rest of your game – flush mistakes quickly.