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'Work rate, dedication more important than size'

FNB Varsity Cup

FNB UCT Ikeys wing Ntokozo Makhaza reflects on lessons from Cheslin Kolbe, his decision to pick rugby over soccer, and his dream to represent the Springboks at the World Cup.

Where are you from originally? I was born in Bethlehem, but raised in Harrismith. I moved to Durban when I was 11 years old and completed the rest of my primary and high school education there.

Which sports did you play at school? I got a scholarship to attend Northwood High School, where I played rugby, soccer, basketball and athletics. I got to a stage where I had to choose between soccer and rugby, and I chose rugby because it had contributed a lot to me as an individual and I really enjoyed it. In a sense, it was a difficult choice because soccer is played worldwide. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about rugby. But I chose it.

What made you fall in love with rugby? The bonds with my teammates, the friendships and the travelling too. The opportunities the sport created for me made me fall in love with it even more.

How has your family responded to your decision to pursue rugby? My mom and dad are my biggest supporters. They always ensured that I had proper equipment and I'm really grateful for that. They continue to motivate me. I want to make myself and them proud.

Do you have any heroes or people you look up to? My role models are my parents. I really admire their character and values, and I'd like to follow that lead in future.

Is there anyone in rugby who inspires you? There have been a number of rugby players over the years who have motivated me to keep going. More recently, I can't look further than Cheslin Kolbe. We are very similar in size [Kolbe is 1.75m and 75kg, and Makhaza is 1.68m and 80kg]. Cheslin has proved that rugby is a sport for people of all sizes. That said, you still need to have the power for a high work rate and the dedication to make it in the sport. That's what keeps me going to reach and achieve my goals.

What's it like to play for the FNB UCT Ikeys, a club steeped in history that has provided so many stars with their initial opportunity? I feel privileged and blessed to be part of a club like UCT. It's a very healthy environment for me and it really helps me grow as an individual and a rugby player. We have great coaches, who guide us, and everything about it is healthy, competitive and professional.

What are you studying? I'm in my third year of a Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in psychology and social development.

What do you hope to achieve in rugby? My goal is to play professional club rugby and to get a pro contract. Beyond that, I want to play for the Springboks and represent them at a World Cup. I also want to use that opportunity to give back to society.

Interview by Ayanda Frances Felem

Photo: Zaahid Appoles/ASEM Engage


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