Male and female students, who are part of UKZN Rugby, were recently selected to the provincial and national rugby teams.

The male students played for the Sharks under 19 team while the female students were selected to the Sharks senior women’s team. Some of the female students from the group were further selected to play for the South African Students team at the World Student Rugby Championships in Namibia while others represented the country in the senior national Springboks women’s team.

The female students who made the cut were Ms Lindelwa Gwala, Ms Nontuthuko Shongwe, Ms Sanelisiwe Mkhize, Ms Nosipho Mkhwanazi, Ms Sizophila Solontsi, Ms Tshidi Thaane and Ms Busisiwe Ncalane, while the UKZN male representatives included Mr Onke Jiba, Mr Asanda Kunene and Mr Phelelani Zuma.

Currently part of the Springboks Women’s team, Gwala is on tour with the national team.

Gwala was also part of the South African Students team together with Shongwe as captain, Mkhize, Mkhwanazi, and Solontsi who joined the team as a fitness and conditioning coach.

Jiba who has secured a contract to play with the Sharks team in 2019 fell in love with rugby in primary school.

One of eight children and raised by his aunt in Inanda, Jiba played for the junior provincial teams earning himself a high school scholarship in 2013 before joining UKZN in 2018 as a Sports Science student.

‘I was lucky and very privileged to play in the Varsity shield with UKZN Impi in my first-year. It was something new to me but as time went I found the balance, but it is still not easy. Making the Sharks u19 team was great and I thank God for blessing me so much this year,’ said Jiba.

First-year student, Kunene who started playing rugby at the age of 10 says he is grateful for the opportunity to play a game he loves at such a high level. His dream is to one day play super rugby for the Cell C Sharks and the Springboks.

Ladysmith-born Biokineticist Mkhwanazi, who was part of the team that started UKZN women’s rugby says training has always been part of her life and it helps with balancing her studies and playing rugby.

Nineteen-year-old and first-year Property Development student, Zuma says being selected has opened a lot of doors and laid a platform for his career. His plan going forward is to make the most of what he has. ‘I might not be where I want to be with my career but I’m trying to better myself and make little progress day by day. Little progress is still progress.’

Meanwhile, Mkhize said training twice a week left her with more than enough time for her studies. Her dreams include being able to introduce women’s rugby at school level in schools around Pietermaritzburg, and making the Springboks senior team to take part in the “next” world cup, she chuckled.

Clermont born Solontsi, who was raised by a single mother of six said her life included a lot of moving around. She said her dream would be to see women’s rugby get more recognition and exposure as her male counterparts. ‘We are all playing the same game as men!’

PhD candidate in Exercise Science, Thaane who only started playing rugby in February this year, said it is such an honour to become a member of this great team of sport and to not only be a player, but to play at University and provincial levels.

‘I implore everyone, especially ladies to try rugby, even if they are in other sporting codes or have never played any sport. Rugby is very easy to learn and has a position for almost everyone. But most importantly, rugby teaches and encourages resilience, strength and courage which we need in our daily lives including our academic life,’ said Thaane.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu