Meet Donatienne Rasoampamonjy, Madagascar’s tireless Unstoppable

Since Donatienne Rasoampamonjy discovered rugby as a teenager, the game has changed her life. Now she helps other players discover the sport in turn.

Donatienne Rasoampamonjy sits for a moment against the wall of the shady changing room while the summer sun beats down in her far flung corner of Madagascar. Time for a break, but only a brief one.

It’s been three years since the 29-year-old opened a rugby school in 2017 in Ambositra, her native village, in the island’s central Amoron'i Mania region, and the club now welcomes around 30 players.

“We have a few girls, especially in U16, but they train with the boys,” she told World Rugby in an interview between two training sessions.

Rasoampamonjy herself did not have the chance to start rugby so early. She only discovered the sport at 18 when her sports teacher mentioned it in a class.

“Since my childhood, I was very tall, I was always taller than girls my age,” she says. For three years, she focused on basketball, football and rugby before stopping the first two.

“I actually felt more comfortable with rugby, it's the sport that suited me the best. The values also corresponded to me better: solidarity, integrity… Rugby educated me more than other sports,” she explains.

Life lessons

Though Rasoampamonjy started out playing sevens as a teenager, she quickly turned towards 15s as a prop – in fact her first tournament fell on her birthday and had a profound impact on her… “I found there a real spirit of sharing between us all, it was admirable,” she recalls.

Her transition to university was not the easiest, however. Coming from a modest background, she ran into financial problems. But ‘Do’ is not the type to give up and she says she drew the strength to hold on and move forward in her management studies course from rugby.

“When you play rugby, you face problems, but every time you have to find solutions, you seek the support of your team-mate, you fall, you get up. In life it's exactly the same. If I had not played rugby, I would not have been able to finish my studies,” says Rasoampamonjy.

A national coach noticed her and convinced her to do a coaching internship. She quickly climbed the ranks, passed her level one and two certificates, and was fully involved in the World Rugby Get Into Rugby programme along with other educational programmes.

“I think it's important to know the rules, but also first aid when a player is injured,” she says.

Teaching the practice and values ​​of rugby

Despite rugby’s enormous popularity on the island, few girls play the sport in Amoron'i Mania. In fact, few boys were involved either when she returned home from her studies. But Rasoampamonjy was fortunate enough to be hired at a high school as a sports teacher, where she was quickly able to start teaching rugby.

“It was quite difficult at the beginning,” she admits. “Often people think it's dangerous for girls. So, to show them that this was not the case, we organised a lot of festivals, we did a lot of showcases just to show that we could play everywhere. In addition to practice, I teach the values, rights and duties of the player, the responsibility to protect oneself, to protect your team-mate but also your opponent. This is how we found success."

That success is easily measured. “In 2017, we participated in the national school championship and we were champions of southern Madagascar and placed third in the finals. In 2018, it was the same result and we also reached third place in the Madagascar U18 men's championship that we won the following year,” she explains.

Embodying Unstoppable

Given the remarkable path she has blazed, it’s no surprise that Rasoampamonjy has been named one of Rugby Africa's Unstoppables. World Rugby’s ‘Try and Stop Us’ campaign aims to highlight the women the world over who have distinguished themselves by their fierce desire to grow the sport. And through her dedication, Rasoampamonjy has certainly done that.

“I pay my expenses, my catering, my accommodation each time there is a training course somewhere,” she explains of her unrelenting schedule – and drive. 

“Often I have to travel for eight hours to participate. I leave on Friday evening in a bush taxi to start the training at 8am and on Sunday evening I leave at 8pm and arrive home at 4am to start again at school at 8am," she explains.

Since neither distance nor fatigue can stop her, it was hardly surprising she would prove to be the Fédération Malagasy de Rugby’s choice to highlight the Unstoppables campaign. “Female practice interests me a lot and I feel that I have things to contribute,” she says.

Through her commitment, she hopes that women's rugby will develop in the 22 regions of Madagascar so that a national championship can be created. “You can do anything if there is passion,” she insists.

Read more: Rugby Africa Unstoppable CJ Kotze using her voice to promote women’s game in Namibia >>

Last updated: Nov 16, 2020, 2:59:15 PM
Josephine Sukkar with Buildcorp Super W and Wallaroos players
wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news wr-women-news-power wr-news-oceania
Josephine Sukkar hopes to use historic appointment to help keep Australia mentally and physically healthy
We talk to the first female chair of the Australian Sports Commission about her hopes for the role, and her work in rugby.
Springbok Women
wr-news Women's wr-women-news RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021 wr-news-oceania wr-news-olympics-w
Springbok Women ready to step out of the shadows at Rugby World Cup 2021
South Africa’s new women’s rugby high performance manager Lynne Cantwell hopes Rugby World Cup 2021 will help inspire a new generation of players.
Kelly Brazier playing Hong Kong at RWC 2017
Women's Development Women's sevens-news-women sevens wr-women-news-2021 wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News RWC2021 Rugby World Cup
Kelly Brazier “pumped” ahead of potential Olympic-Rugby World Cup double
We caught up with the two-time Rugby World Cup winner, who is hoping to play at both Tokyo 2020 and New Zealand 2021.
Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2019 - Women's
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens Women's sevens-news-women sevens wr-news-sevens wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news
USA sevens star Naya Tapper: We want to bring back Olympic gold
As rugby sevens returns from a year-long lay-off in Madrid this weekend, USA star Naya Tapper says she is “super-excited” to be finally back doing what she does best – tearing up the rugby field.
Women's International: Spain v Scotland
wr-news Women's wr-women-news sevens Feature RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
Women’s Rugby Europe Championship: Spain ready to start their road to Rugby World Cup 2021
Las Leonas have a key game against Russia this weekend in Guadalajara in the Women’s Rugby Europe Championship, aiming to continue chasing their dream of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2021.
Liza Burgess Ronan O'Gara Hall of Fame induction
wr-women-news-coach wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news Tournament News Podcasts
Rugby’s Greatest Podcast: Who are the best Six Nations leaders?
The first episode of the new World Rugby podcast welcomes Ronan O’Gara, Ian McGeechan, Liza Burgess, Conor O’Shea and Andy Gomarsall to talk about leadership.
Bella Milo playing for Valley
Women's Development Women's wr-women-news-2021 wr-women-news-coach wr-news wr-women-news Feature Tournament News RWC2021 Rugby World Cup
Bella Milo: Rugby World Cup 2021 could have huge impact on women’s rugby in Hong Kong and Pacific Islands
The Samoa fly-half talks to World Rugby about New Zealand 2021, coaching and how she hopes to “give back” to the game.
Spain women's sevens
sevens-news Women's sevens-news-women sevens wr-news-sevens Olympics wr-news wr-women-news sevens-news-men
Madrid Sevens: All you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics warm-up tournament
Your guide to the return of rugby sevens, including who is playing, what format it will take and its importance to the participating teams.
Alhambra Nievas - Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2017 - Women's
Olympics wr-women-news-sevens wr-news Women's wr-women-news wr-news-matchofficials wr-women-news-2021 wr-news-olympics-w
Pioneering Olympic female referee Alhambra Nievas excited by the next generation
As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games draw ever closer, we talk to Alhambra Nievas about her experience of refereeing the women’s gold medal match in Rio and look at how far female officials have come since that momentous occasion.
Paule Ella Guei
wr-news Women's Unstoppables wr-women-news Feature
'Unstoppable' Paule Ella Guei awarded for promoting women's rugby in Ivory Coast
One of the faces of Rugby Africa's 'Try And Stop Us' campaign, the player-turned-referee has received the Sports + Award in recognition of her work developing women's rugby in the Ivory Coast.