As the South African rugby team beat England 32-12 in the World Cup final at Yokohama earlier this week, Sundru Pillay remained a proud man. His daughter Tanushree, a member of the Springboks set-up, had played a huge role in the victory and was a part of the celebrations when skipper Siya Kolisi held aloft the trophy in Japan.
One of the three physiotherapists who are a part of the side, Tanushree’s long association with rugby and the South African team bore results as they outclassed and outperformed their rivals to clinch their third World Cup since their maiden appearance in 1995.
The Indian-origin Tanushree left her Durban home at the age of 17 to pursue a BSc course in physiotherapy. She completed her master’s degree in 2006, following which she received her PhD from the University of Western Cape (UWC) in 2014 for a thesis that looked into the protocols for rehabilitative injury prevention among rugby players.
Even during her studies, she was doing duty as a physio for the Silvertree and the Tygerberg Rugby Clubs and assisted the UWC rugby team as well. By 2006, Tanushree was at her first international sports event as the physio of the All Africa Gymnastics Championships that was staged in Cape Town. In 2007, South Africa rugby appointed her as the physiotherapist of the Springboks women’s team, where she looked after the under-20 and the senior side. Thus began her long association with the international unit.
She has travelled with the women’s side for the Beijing Paralympics, the IRB Seven Series, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and 2011 All Africa Games in Mozambique.
She then came on board the medical team of the men’s senior rugby side for the 2012 Olympics, and was a part of the support staff in the 2015 Rugby World Cup as well.
Being in a male-dominated field was initially hard for Tanushree, but she emphasizes the importance of family and how their support is vital in helping fulfil wishes. In an interview with Scoopnest “I think it is very important in a male-dominated environment to have people support you and I think that makes us stronger. You don’t want to be seen differently. You want to be respected and seen as a professional instead of a female. Sometimes we need to make a tough decision balancing family and professional life, but I have been supported well.”
Tanushree is now looking forward to eating her mom’s lamb curry after the World Cup win. She told IOL “All I want is my mother’s lamb curry with those melting moment potatoes. I know that I will be home when I get that smell.”