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6-Year-Old Girl is Rugby Star _ to Boys’ Consternation

June 11, 1996

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Six-year-old Charlene Groenewald, the only girl on her all-boy rugby team, used to raise eyebrows just by stepping onto the field. Now she’s making headlines across South Africa _ as the top-scorer in the region.

``The other moms and dads shout to their sons, `Tackle her _ What does she think she’s doing out there?‴ says her mother, Carlon Groenewald.

But Charlene seems to know exactly what she’s doing. At this year’s regional rugby tournament, she scored a record 15 tries _ the rugby equivalent of a touchdown _ in four games.

The feat made headlines across South Africa, where both men and women are rugby fans but only the men usually play.

``She hands tackles out just like she gets them,″ said John Honiball, her coach at Olifantsfontein Primary.

Charlene was in nursery school when, noticing her older brother’s team was short a player, she volunteered to fill in. At 5, she began playing rugby in the 9-and-younger league.

Charlene vows to ``make rugby a women’s game,″ but her coach says it’s more likely the girl, who’s already won school medals for running, will move on to tennis and track.

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