Misokuhle Mbanjwa gives instructions to her young rugby stars of the future at eQinisweni Primary School at Inanda.
Picture: Bongani Mbatha
Misokuhle Mbanjwa gives instructions to her young rugby stars of the future at eQinisweni Primary School at Inanda.
Picture: Bongani Mbatha
Rugby players at eQinisweni Primary sing during the final session of their training.
Rugby players at eQinisweni Primary sing during the final session of their training.
DURBAN - Passion for rugby is what motivates school teacher Misokuhle Mbanjwa, more than 20 years after she was introduced to the game.

Mbanjwa has been teaching children the sport at Inanda since 1999.

Some have gone on to play for under-13 and under-18 Craven Week teams and have also received scholarships to some of Durban’s top rugby schools, such as Glenwood and Northwood Boys’ High schools.

Her journey began during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa hosted.

“I saw Mandela with the Springboks, and I saw that this thing is beautiful. It was the first time in my life I had seen rugby. I was like wow! I saw Jonah Lomu, who was a tough guy. I had that seed of wanting to do it,” she recalled.

It was not easy going, though, as she had to introduce rugby to a school where netball and soccer were the dominant sports.

In 1999, she undertook training as a level one coach with the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union.

The 60-year-old Mbanjwa, who teaches at eQinisweni Primary School in Inanda, coaches about 200 children from under-9 to under-13 age groups, who train five days a week.

Among her achievements is coaching the team that became the South African Under-9 champions in Tag Rugby in 2013.

Giving children a better future keeps her going. Mbanjwa believes that one of the pupils she coaches will play for the Sharks one day.

One player she has helped is Mvelo Mlangeni, who plays for Northwood Boys’ High. Mlangeni, an under-18 Sharks wing, said Mbanjwa had changed his life completely.

"Mam Mbanjwa would sometimes take me to rugby games, as I didn’t have any transport,” he said. “I’m very grateful for what she has done in my life.”

Mlangeni, who is in Grade 12, said he plans to study sports management after matric.

There are nevertheless challenges, Mbanjwa said. “I have three main challenges. One is the lack of a sports field.

“I have to use a park and before games I've had to show players where the 22-metre lines and other markings were.

“Language is another challenge. Referees (use) English, which is not the players' first language.

"But the worst challenge is transport.”

The school gets invitations to play at more privileged schools, but those schools cannot travel to Inanda as there is no sports field.

“Our school is a no-fee school. So I have to use my car and other teachers’ cars,” Mbanjwa said.

Stuart McConnell, executive director of Tag Rugby, said: “The contribution that Mam Mbanjwa has made to the lives of many children through playing Tag Rugby® is immeasurable.

"Her passion for children and commitment to making a change in South Africa has given these children hope and provided them with the opportunity to learn about the game of rugby and develop their skills.”

McConnell described Mbanjwa as a ray of sunshine. “She is amazing,” he said.

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