Elliot Mntuwekhaya Fana is the Director of Rugby and head coach for the FNB University of Fort Hare Blues Rugby Club. He is a coach on the rise, according to grassrootsrugby.co.za.
The Fort Hare Blues enjoyed a very successful 2011 season after a slow and disappointing inaugural Varsity Shield campaign. The Blues won the 2011 National Heritage Tournament and the Gonubie Tens tournament, finished third in the Border Super League and two other Blues teams finished on top of their sections.
Border Rugby Football Union took note of the progress and the ability that Fana possess and appointed him as head coach of the Border Bulldogs' Under-21 team for two years.
He told grassrootsrugby.co.za that his involvement with the Border U21s started in 2009 where he was assisting a colleague, but things didn't go well that year. He struggled with inconsistency of his players as they were not in the right frame of mind because the union was struggling financially.
Nevertheless, they still qualified for the semifinals that year and a big thank you must go to Mr Paddy de Lacy, a businessman in East London who was the manager of the team and went out of his way for the benefit of the team using his own resources to advance their cause. This was just a testimony that there was enough talent in the province but no resources to look after that talent. Unfortunately in 2010, he could not be involved with the team as he was consulting with the senior Border Bulldogs team, Botswana Vultures National team and was still involved with the SA u/20 team that participated in the (IRB) Junior Rugby World Cup.
Fana, however, believes that the turning point in the fortunes of Border's junior teams (the Under-19s and Under-21s) was the arrival of Mr Andre Killan and his Zululand Rugby Academy (ZAR) which will soon be changed to Border Bulldogs Rugby Academy.
The plan was to get the ZAR Academy players to play in the Border U19 and U21 teams so as to ensure that these junior players get promoted to the A Section of the Currie Cup and get Border represented there. Fana's U21 team made it and this he attributes to the harmony that exists between him and his technical team of Jason Civil (conditioning coach), who has really done wonders with the boys, JP Immelman (Director), Reinhard Gerber (assistant coach), Phiwe Nomlomo (manager) and Arno Killan (technical advisor).
Fana went on to give credit to his players, saying: "The players themselves were fantastic throughout the season, really showing commitment towards the bigger picture taking it game by game.
"Even when they went down against EP in the league stages (by 29-21) they stood up the following week at the training and actually produced an amazing performance the next game beating SWD 41-10 at BCM Stadium. In the final we played EP and beat them 23-19 in the last two minutes of the game."
They then went on to Kempton for a Promotion/Relegation match against the Falcons which they won 22-20. They will now play in Section A of the Under-21 Currie Cup in the 2012 season.
When asked what his future plans were regarding his coaching career going forward, Elliot replied: "I'm not in a position to give a proper and accurate answer but I am convinced my agent will be able to respond."
Elliot's work-related matters are managed by former Free State Cheetahs flank Brendon Kretzmann of Alpha Sport Agency who is the Managing Director of BLK Kretzmann Attorneys in Welkom.
Grassroots got hold of Kretzmann, who responded to the question as follows: "My client is currently employed by Fort Hare University until December 2012 and I would like him to focus on the task at hand which is to take the FNB UFH Blues Rugby Club to another level.
"We have not yet touched on that subject as we have time on our disposal and also working according to a plan. Yes he has done extremely well for the University achieving things that were not achieved before and I guess he has now made history with the Bulldogs U21. He's got two Currie Cup medals and naturally in any professional sport environment that if you produce the goods, your services will be in demand. He is really highly talented and committed."
This sentiment was earlier shared by the Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir at the recent Investec International Rugby Academy High Performance Coaches Course in Rustenburg, where Fana really impressed the facilitators with his rugby knowledge.
Currently, Fana is preparing the University team for the Varsity Shield Competition which will start at the end of January 2012. Fort Hare will play UWC at Fort Hare's Davidson Stadium on January 30, 2012.
Courtesy of grassrootsrugby.co.za