In the buildup to the Springboks’ epic opening game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup against New Zealand, prop Trevor Nyakane had to make one of the biggest decisions of his career.
‘We were playing the All Blacks, and there was a lot of preparation that needed to be done,’ says Nyakane. ‘But I think I speak on behalf of most men out there when I say that I felt, at that time, my family needed me more than South Africa needed me on the rugby field.’
So Nyakane was given leave from the squad to fly home from Japan and be with his wife, Gavaza, as she gave birth to their first child – Thando Skylar Nyakane.
‘Yes, it was a big decision. But it was also a no-brainer for me. I felt like the birth of my daughter was bigger than rugby. My wife couldn’t redo that. It was something special for me to come back for that,’ says the proud new father.
Since the birth of his daughter, Nyakane has become a powerful 118kg force in Vodacom’s #BeAPresentDad movement, and which will be celebrated at his beloved Vodacom Bulls union when they host the Vodacom Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld from 28-29 March.
The campout will have fathers and sons bonding over their shared love of rugby and the Bulls. As valued members of the Vodacom ONE Family, they will sleep in tents on the main field at Loftus Versfeld, take part in several games and activities with their sons, and meet other Bulls players, sports stars and celebrities.
Nyakane, speaking in the general context of fatherhood, says it’s redefined not only his life but also how he approaches his rugby.
‘I believe you must always have a “why”. That “why” has changed for me. My “why” used to be all about me and the fact that I want to play rugby and achieve great things for myself on the rugby field. Now, when I’m on the field I put in 110% not just for me, but to be able to give my child the opportunities I maybe didn’t have. So I am playing rugby for a different “why”. I know I need to step up as a father and give my child a fair chance in life.’
It strongly resembles Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’s speech to his players before the Rugby World Cup final against England, which Nyakane had to miss after injuring himself in the pool stages of the competition.
‘You are not representing yourself today,’ Erasmus told his players. ‘It’s not about you.’
Fatherhood, more than anything else, has convinced Nyakane of this fact.
‘Life is no longer just about Trevor. There is someone that I have to put first before myself. It’s been an amazing journey so far. It’s life changing, and it’s a change I’m enjoying and embracing. It’s taught me a lot. I’m learning to be more patient and to put someone else first. In that sense fatherhood has brought the best out of me. I see life in a different way now than I used to a few months back.’
As much as fatherhood has changed the way he approaches his rugby, Nyakane wants to instil the lessons he’s learned in rugby in the life of his daughter.
‘Rugby has taught me many life lessons. It’s taught me to keep going no matter how tough things get, and to never give up. The discipline and determination associated with rugby are also qualities I’d like to teach my daughter. She needs to know that things don’t come easy and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And she must enjoy what she does, and go for what she wants in life. Actually, for her just to be a well-mannered little girl would make me a very proud father.’
A proud father, playing for a greater purpose, in the game of his life.
To register for the Vodacom Father and Son Campout, visit www.redrewards.co.za