Wheelchair Rugby, formerly known as Murderball or Quad Rugby, was invented in 1977, in Winnipeg, Canada. A group of quadriplegic athletes looked for an alternative to Wheelchair Basketball that would allow players with reduced hand and arm function to participate on equal footing.
In 1994, Wheelchair Rugby was officially recognised as a Paralympic sport for the first time and has held full medal status since the year 2000. Wheelchair rugby was established in South Africa in 1998.
Currently there are more than forty countries who actively participate in the sport. The Mustang Wheelchair Rugby Club was established in June 2011. In their first few months of exitance, they manged to impress on a national level despite not having training facilities or all the necessary equipment.
One of their athletes was selected as part of the national training squad, a mere two months later, in August 2011. The team’s first game which they won, was achieved in 2012, motivated the team and the Mustangs climbed, or pushed, through the ranks.
One more Mustang athlete was included for the national squad, in 2013. The Mustangs physiotherapist was also included in the national team as team physio in that same year. These three Mustangs members were part of the Wheelboks team which competed at the 2013 Asia Oceania Championships.
The Mustangs continued to progress, finishing 2nd in 2013, 3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2015. The big, long awaited achievement of winning the SA Wheelchair Rugby League came in 2016.
The Mustangs have been undefeated in a staggering total of 45 consecutive wins since then and have successfully defended the title of South African Wheelchair Rugby League Champions for three consecutive years. And the rest, as they say, is history.
2019 promises to be one for the books. It is already off to a great start. The team has set some ‘hard to achieve’ but not at all impossible goals for 2019. Firstly, they aim to once again successfully defend their title of SA WCR League Champions. The Mustangs are working hard in order to maintain this.
Despite having a rigorous weekly training program, the team still regularly makes time to host development and awareness days in the Free State in order to grow the team. One goal is to start a second team in the province. By having a bigger pool of players, they believe that the team will be even more competitive.
Considering the recent invitation to a wheelchair rugby tournament in Poland, the team’s aim is to raise sufficient funds to attend an overseas tournament in the near future. This will enable them to broaden their horizons and test their skills on a whole new playing field.
It is Mustang Wheelchair Rugby Club’s mission to develop wheelchair rugby as a sport within South Africa and to introduce and emphasize how wheelchair rugby can impact and improve the overall well-being and upliftment of people living with disabilities in South Africa.
Introduction to Wheelchair Rugby. (2012). Retrieved March 31, 2019, from http://www.iwrf.com/?page=about_our_sport.
Photo above: Mustangs span: Jillian van der Merwe, Jared McIntyre, Johnny Masethe, Francois Jacobs, Musa Simelane, Olebogeng Mosang en Johnny Sutil.