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Young Eagles field some double trouble

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Identical twin bothers Lwandile and Wandile Thabethe take part in practice with the Oostelike Eagles. AFP
Identical twin bothers Lwandile and Wandile Thabethe take part in practice with the Oostelike Eagles. AFP

A South African junior rugby team has confounded its opponents, teammates and even its coach by having five sets of twins on the squad.

From afar an Oostelike Eagles training session looks much like any other rugby practice with seven, eight and nine year olds in Pretoria.

Tackling, passing and line-out drills are organised chaos and not everyone is sure what to do.

But in the Eagles’ case they are also unsure who is who and what to call each other.

“Coach calls us ‘Twins’,” said Lwandile Thabethe. “Because we are twins,” his identical sibling Wandile explained. “He gets confused when he tries to separate us,” said Lwandile.

At nine years old, the two prop forwards are a bit old for the team, but they are still allowed to play.

Teams play in an informal league, honing skills at a young age in this rugby-mad nation. The Pretoria-based club started their newest team this year, but it took a while before organisers realised the number of duplicate siblings.

Two pairs are identical, two are non-identical, and eight-year-old Francois Viljoen’s twin sister Zancha is the team’s water carrier, though that does not keep her from running sprints with the boys while yelling out orders.

“It’s very difficult, the identical twins, you can’t see them apart,” coach Neels Goossen said.

“The ones are ‘Twins’ because I don’t know what their names are. I cannot identify them,” he said. “And then the other ones I call [by] their surname ‘Minny’. If I shout ‘Minny’ both of them jump and if I shout ‘Twins’ both of them will jump.”

– Agence France-Presse