‘There’s a lot of people that make Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu’

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu booted over his first points in Test rugby from over 50 metres for the Springboks against Wales at Twickenham. Photo: AFP

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu booted over his first points in Test rugby from over 50 metres for the Springboks against Wales at Twickenham. Photo: AFP

Published Jun 28, 2024


Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu’s first real act in Test rugby was to ask his captain Pieter-Steph du Toit to launch a 50-odd-metre shot at goal – which he duly slotted.

And he spoke in the third person during his first Springbok press conference this week – which is something that, depending on which psychology journal you’ve read lately, can be a reflection of someone who is confident in their ability, or has self-doubt.

No prizes for guessing which one Feinberg-Mngomezulu is...

Having enjoyed a superb junior career, where he came through Bishops, Western Province and captained the Junior Springboks, the 22-year-old felt it was a “full circle” moment when he jogged onto the Twickenham pitch against Wales last Saturday.

In fact, there is a bigger picture around his journey to the top. His grandfather, Barry Feinberg, was an anti-apartheid activist and SACP and ANC stalwart, who left South Africa and went into exile in London in the 1960s.

The family eventually returned to SA, and Barry’s son, Nick Feinberg, is well known in Cape circles as a media authority on British football and a sports radio presenter.

Now one of Nick’s sons, Sacha – whose mother is Makhosazana Mngomezulu, an advocate in the High Court of the Cape Bar – has made it to the Springbok team in a democratic South Africa.

Barry Feinberg died last October, and former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils wrote a moving tribute of his former SACP colleague, whom he had worked alongside in London in the 1960s.

“My grandpa played a huge role. He was at the side of every rugby game. He passed in the last year – I don’t want to make it emotional...” Sacha said this week, before choking back tears.

“He would’ve liked to see that (his Springbok debut) – it’s everything he fought for. So, proud.”

Nick Feinberg made the trip to London to watch his boy run out at Twickenham, and shared some of his experiences on social media.

“He caught a flight on Thursday, so got in on Friday. He had to go via Ethiopia or something, crazy!” Sacha said about his father.

“Whatever he was going to do, he was going to get there. So, that meant the most to me. I had my godfather there, my mates from Cape Town were there. It was a full circle moment at the home of rugby in England.

“It was such a special moment for me, and to share it with them was awesome.

“I’ve had a few injuries, so it hasn’t been a (smooth ride). I’ve lacked some game time, which has been frustrating.

“But on the other hand, getting to understand the game on a deeper level – analysing, spending lots of time on my laptop – has certainly helped.

“There is an expectation level that comes with being Sacha, I guess. But there are a lot of people that make Sacha – my parents, my coaches, my friends, my family.

“The guys back at my union, the Stormers, I give a lot of credit to them because as a youngster coming through the system, it’s not easy – especially playing at inside centre, where a lot of your players are usually experienced.

“So, I’ve had a fast two years, but it’s been well accompanied by some strong people.”

That monster kick against Wales proved that Feinberg-Mngomezulu has something special, but he knows that he will have to wait his turn to get a Bok start – which may happen against Portugal in Bloemfontein on July 20.

But his fans will hope that he can be involved in some way against Ireland next Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.

“Those sorts of kicks... We work on that, and you get to understand your range and the distance that you can kick,” he said.

“So, when you ask for the ball to take a kick, it’s not supposed to be a gamble – it’s a trusting thing. And one thing they’ve got right here at the Springboks is that they trust you.

“I asked for that ball from Pieter-Steph, and he said ‘Slaan hom!’, and I kicked it over.

“I mentioned in the interview after the game that Tony Brown had helped me, and my kicking coach at the Stormers (Gareth Wright), and all these things come into play.

“When the kick comes, it’s another day at practice – it just happens to be in front of a lot of people, which we all want to experience one day.

“Sponge-mentality is me at the moment. I fully understand that I am a new boy in this system, and I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to fix.

“With the people around me, I’m certain that slowly but surely, I will get that right. Even yesterday when we were kicking, watching Willie kick a ball, watching Handré kick a ball, every repetition these guys get, you pick up something.”

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