Tshotsho gets a second chance

2020-04-28 06:01
Tshotsho Mbovane in action for the Blitzboks at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2011.PHOTO: Getty Images

Tshotsho Mbovane in action for the Blitzboks at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2011.PHOTO: Getty Images

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Not everyone is privileged enough to get a second chance at doing what they love. And if you have been in the doldrums for two years, you lose hope of ever getting back into the game.

This is how the former Sevens player Tshotsho Mbovane felt before he was appointed as coach of the junior and senior Sevens team of the International Rugby Institute (IRI) in Pretoria.

“I am from Willowvale Nqadu in the Eastern Cape, but I was raised in Langa. Before being selected for the SA u.20 squad in 2012 (which won the Junior World Cup), I made my Sevens debut in 2011 against England in Adelaide. That was straight after high school. On my return to South Africa, I was injured in the u.21 Currie Cup semi-final for WP against the Sharks. While recovering from my injury, I was stabbed in Langa. I saw my dream of playing for SA in the Junior World Cup in 2012 in Cape Town disappear into thin air,” he says.

The then coach of the Junior Boks, Dawie Theron, gave him the opportunity to play in the Junior World Cup. Both Paul Treu (who was the Sevens coach at the time) and WP wanted his services. Mbovane was unhappy with WP’s offer and signed a two-year contract with Sevens.

When Treu left in 2013, Mbovane says he was not part of the new coaching staff’s plans. With no WP contract in the pipeline, he was on loan to Boland before he left to join the Leopards until the end of the rugby season in 2014. At the end of 2014, he moved back to Cape Town where he played on WP’s Vodacom side.

Mbovane played in the Vodacom Cup again in 2015. However, he was not selected for the Stormers.

During this time, he also became a father. Without a steady income, Mbovane landed on the streets in Langa.

He says that in the two years that he didn’t play for provincial teams (from 2016 to 2018), he learnt a lot about himself and decision making.

“I realised you must surround yourself with people who have the same goals and ambitions as you.”

The former Bok Thando Manana sports personality Robert Marawa both offered him second chances but Mbovane says he was still battling with his knee injury.

“I knew no provincial side would sign an injured player,” he says.

Instead – to support his two kids – he played for Villagers in Brookside, forming part of the team that regained their Super League status.

Mbovane left Villagers and returned to play for Langa in 2019 as the captain for the first three games, helping the team progress to Super League B.

He says he struggled financially for two years before joining the IRI.

In Pretoria, he plays for Naka Bulls Rugby Club and he got another chance at playing rugby while coaching at the IRI.

According to Mbovane, the highlights of his Sevens career was being part of the squad that lifted the Las Vegas trophy in the 2011/12 season and making the Dream Team in Gold Coast in Australia in 2012.

He says his lowest point was when Treu resigned as coach, leaving him in limbo.

“I still believe I have enough in the tank to be a force in rugby again, I only need to prove myself. At Sevens, Cecil Afrika and Paul Delport helped me in my darkest times.”

Mbovane says, in the past, as a non-white rugby player, you had to go to a former Model C school to get noticed.

“I attended Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch and progressed from each age level in WP until I became a Blitzbok,” he says.

At the IRI, he wants to give young players a fair chance in Sevens, no matter where they come from.

“There are a lot of African players at clubs in townships and all they need is an opportunity. I want to make sure these players also reach the same levels as their white counterparts at the IRI.”

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