Excitement is bubbling as the World Cup is set to kick off this month, and the success of the Springboks could inspire the next generation of stars, writes PETROS AUGOUSTI.
The 1995 World Cup brought unforgettable memories, reconciliation and a unification of cultures that was so unimaginable that Hollywood made a blockbuster movie of it.
Then the 2007 triumph came along and once again the mood of the nation soared, creating a new generation of emerging players to dream of glory.
Rugby is not just a sport in our country, it is a unifying, edifying and enlightening experience.
Running parallel to the tournament in Japan will be another that will prove just as exhilarating to a new generation of players. In two weeks, boys from the VUSA Rugby Academy in Langa, Cape Town will be off to the remote, rural Eastern Cape to play their counterparts in a Heritage Day Festival of the sport at its most raw, rudimentary but equally profound level.
They will be visiting the current Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s home on 26 September and will play a match at the Dan QeQe Stadium in Zwide.
The Eastern Cape is one of the richest parts in our country when it comes to unearthing some of the world’s leading players and many current Vodacom Super Rugby and Springbok players hail from this region.
The VUSA Rugby Academy brand is taking rugby across the nation and despite its success on the field, it’s the work off the field that is often the most rewarding.
For context, the VUSA team, playing out of the Langa Township, proved unlikely heroes when the U11 team scooped top honours at the Paarl Boys Primary annual rugby day. They played against some of the best schools in the world and showed they belong.
The idea behind the VUSA Rugby Academy is to provide an outlet for outrageous talent and turn adversity to opportunity. VUSA alumnus Springbok loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe is proof of the concept.
Rugby is a progression of life for these boys from the rural sticks and the urban chaos of township life, but it is proving to be one of the strongest factors in rehabilitating, nurturing and educating.
The VUSA programme provides a full bouquet of developmental experiences giving children access to extra academic lessons, computer facilities; exposing them to recreational activities; providing them with a hot meal and allowing them access to world-class coaching.
The programme relies on corporate backing through CSI funding, and has changed the lives of 2,340 young boys born in areas that are renowned for substance abuse, gangsterism and domestic violence.
While injured, Springbok hooker Scarra Ntubeni coached at the VUSA Academy in 2016. For him the days he spent imparting rugby knowledge are some of his most treasured memories.
Speaking ahead of the Rugby World Cup he said: ‘There have been a few moments in my life as a rugby player that I will treasure … earning my Springbok cap, making my provincial debut and those hours spent on the sidelines.
‘I may even be a half-decent coach one day,’ he quipped with a twinkle in his eye.
Brenden Fogarty, master of rugby at Bishops School and one of VUSA’s key architects, believes that the success of the initiative cannot be judged purely on its rugby programme.
‘There are so many elements that go into turning a child into a self-sustaining man, and we believe in three key principles, namely education, sport and mentorship using our male coaches as role models.’
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