Bulls loose forward and Blitzbok Tim Agaba believes he wouldn’t have become a professional rugby player without the FNB Varsity Cup.
Agaba was born in Kampala, Uganda, before moving at a young age with his family to the Transkei and then East London. He attended Stirling High School and played for Border at the U18 Craven Week in 2007.
Agaba signed a junior contract with the Sharks, but injuries restricted him to just two appearances for their U21 team in 2010 and he returned home at the end of 2011.
“I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to stay on at the Sharks and play for the senior side,” he tells VarsityCup.co.za. “My dad had said that if I wasn’t making money from playing rugby then I needed to study and get a real job. So I went to NMU to study and just play rugby for fun.”
However, Agaba would be given the life-changing opportunity to represent the FNB Madibaz in the FNB Varsity Cup from 2012 to 2014. And he made the most of it, with his performances in the 2013 tournament earning him selection for the Eastern Province Kings.
Agaba went on to represent the Blitzboks at the 2016 Olympic Games before signing for the Bulls in 2017, and in July he will further his career with French club US Carcassonne.
Agaba reflects fondly on his time with the FNB Madibaz. They had finished second last on the FNB Varsity Cup log in 2011, but under coach Brent Janse van Rensburg they came fifth in 2012 and then reached the semi-finals for the first time in 2013.
“Brent is one of the most professional coaches I’ve ever worked with,” says Agaba. “That was a pleasant surprise for me. He brought a bunch of guys together who believed in what he wanted to do. Brent wasn’t happy with the state of rugby at NMU and wanted to change things drastically. And he did.”
In 2013, the Madibaz needed to beat a star-studded FNB UP-Tuks team in their last match of the league stage in Port Elizabeth to finish fourth on the log ahead of FNB NWU-Pukke on points difference.
They claimed a famous 13-7 victory but didn’t realise, at first, what they had achieved.
“We thought we had to win by a bigger margin to reach the semi-finals, so some of the guys were crying in the change room afterwards,” says Agaba.
“A few minutes later, the news came through that we had actually made the semis!”
The FNB Madibaz came agonisingly close to reaching the final that year, with late conversion and penalty goal misses against FNB Maties at the Danie Craven Stadium resulting in a 16-15 defeat.
They would suffer a similar fate in their 2014 semi-final against FNB NWU-Pukke in Potchefstroom, with a late penalty giving the hosts a 19-18 win.
While those one-point defeats hurt, Agaba is proud to have been part of the best FNB Madibaz teams to have participated in the FNB Varsity Cup. The 31-year-old is also grateful for the role the tournament played in reviving his rugby career.
“The Varsity Cup was everything to me, it was my rugby lifeline,” he says. “I wonder to this day where I would be rugby-wise if not for the Varsity Cup and the opportunity NMU gave me.”
– This is the seventh instalment in a series of FNB Varsity Cup Changing Lives articles focusing on those whose lives were forever changed by Rugby That Rocks.