KZN’s provincial volleyball team, the Kingdom Rhinos battled it out against eight other teams to take second place at the National Volleyball League games held at UKZN’s Westville campus recently.

With five UKZN students part of the team, made up of the best volleyball players in the province, the Kingdom Rhinos dominated most of the tournament. The players, Devin O’Regan, Lubabalo Mnguni, Thandolwethu Ngobese, Sandile Ngcobo and Brandon Govender are all at the top of their game.

Vice-Captain of the Kingdom Rhinos, O’Regan who holds a degree in Sport Science, Honours in Biokinetics and is completing his Masters in Sport Science at UKZN, commended the team on a battle well fought. ‘The team did really great at the tournament. This was the first time in two years that the KZN team has lost a single set. I’m guessing that went to our heads a little bit thinking we could dominate as easily as we have been previously,’ said O’Regan.

‘There was a lot of pressure to win each game and all the provinces were set on taking us down… out of the eight provinces we faced we only lost to one, the Western Cranes, which we just lost to in the 5th set 15-12 … we ended up facing them again in the finals where unfortunately we lost. For a team as strong as ours, second place is not enough,’ he said.

The UKZN students balance being students while excelling on the volleyball court. ‘It’s a great bunch of guys, we have a lot of fun on and off of the court which I think helps us win game after game,’ said O’Regan. ‘I think with any student-athlete, studies are extremely important but you do need to make time for other things to de-stress a little. For me, and many of my teammates, volleyball is that thing. The guys in our club, including the coach, are just awesome, we always have a good time and it’s more of a family than anything else so going to training or to a tournament all your worries kind of get left behind.’

‘I think the league itself is a major highlight for everyone, it’s great something like this is finally happening and volleyball is starting to grow and to be part of it is just fantastic. Other than that, making it to the finals was so great but the best thing of all was all the support, the crowd that we had the day of the finals was AMAZING and our middle blocker Loueshan Gungarajh receiving a special award, Best Blocker, was great too and was well deserved,’ said O’Regan.

All of the UKZN students have scholarships, and take representing the University and the province very seriously. ‘We continuously bring home medals and special awards from national tournaments and train hard to ensure our team does well, though we are nothing without the rest of our team and coach doing all they can to ensure the same thing happens. We are all so grateful that the University has awarded us these scholarships and will do all we can to make UKZN the top team in the country,’ he said.

The team is pleased that the league is growing; it was broadcast on Supersport and was supported by fans.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Andile Andries Ndlovu