Provincial rugby player, Khanya Ncusane, 21, says his life changed the day Parow West Primary School teacher and sports coach, Arno Kotze recommended he attend trials for the school’s rugby team in 2010.
The trials went well that Wednesday after school and an hour later, his mother, Nomayenzeke, had to rush him to soccer practice, at Vasco Da Gama in Parow, where he was a regular starter for their under-13A team.
Ncusane made the rugby team and had to eventually choose which of the two sports to focus solely on.
His mother asked if he believed he could someday make the team at Ajax Cape Town, Vasco’s Parow neighbour.
Ncusane says he believed other youngsters, especially at Ajax, were much better than him, so he made the decision to drop soccer for rugby.
He became a regular in the school’s rugby team, and his performance would enable him to represent the Western Province under-12 team.
At the end of the year, he was awarded a scholarship to attend Paarl Boys’ Primary and High School.
He represented the provincial teams from under-12 up until Craven Week (under-18).
At Paarl, he played for the under-13, under-14, under-15, under-16 and the first team in Grade 11 and Grade 12.
Ncusane said he was one of only a few black children who had the opportunity to earn this achievement at the school, at the time.
He made the Craven Week team twice, in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he scored in the final when they thumped Eastern Province 95-3, one of the biggest scores in the prestigious tournament. In 2016, he out-ran a winger to score one of the most memorables tries in his young career.
Ncusane’s hard work paid off again after school. He was awarded a contract to join the Lion’s side up in Gauteng.
In 2017 and 2018, he helped the Lion’s under-19 and under-21 side to be crowned the Currie Cup champions. And last year, he was a part of the University of Johannesburg Varsity Cup team.
Ncusane said, although he was doing something he was passionate about, his last year at the Lion’s started to feel like it was a job rather than what he loved doing. He started to wake up late, fall in with the wrong crowd and he got dropped from the team.
Being on the bench and away from his family, especially after returning from initiation school, was somewhat new to him, which caused him to fall into a deep depression.
This affected his performance and at the end of last year, he came back to Cape Town, to regroup and restart.
Earlier this year, Ncusane set a goal for the year, which is to represent the Western Province at the Supersport Challenge. He managed to play a couple of games for the province before the lockdown hit.
While it is still uncertain what will happen after the lockdown, Ncusane is hoping the Stormers will sign him on a long-term contract.
His proud father, Monde, said his children have been training hard during the national lockdown to curb Covid-19.
Ncusane wakes up at 5am and does a 8-10km jog with his brother, Lindo, who’s also an eighth-man for the Lion’s under-19 side and a psychology student at Wits University.
They also do some stretches, body and weight conditioning, and eat nutritious meals.
“Coming back home obviously wasn’t easy. I had to look in the mirror and accept that things didn’t go well in Joburg. But I had to be honest with myself and decide, do I go home and just become another stat (a player that just got lost in the system) or do I go and put in the work and give myself a chance and chase my dreams! So I decided to chase my dreams,” said Ncusane.