Dream come true for Gobodo as he gets to see Springboks in action

Qaphela Gobodo will cheer on the Springboks in Japan today PHOTO: Mpambani Qamisa
Qaphela Gobodo will cheer on the Springboks in Japan today PHOTO: Mpambani Qamisa

Before this week, Qaphela Gobodo (18) had only ever been to two provinces: the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

But today he was among 70 000 spectators at Yokohama Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, watching the Springboks take on Wales in the Rugby World Cup semifinals.

It is the first time that Gobodo, from Paarl, sees Bok captain Siya Kolisi in action on the field.

If life had turned out a little differently for Gobodo, he also could have been a professional rugby player.

But his dream was destroyed when he was 15 years old, shortly after he received a rugby scholarship from Hoërskool Garsfontein in Pretoria.

In 2016, he was assaulted with a golf club in the school bathroom, doused in paraffin and set on fire.

He was not even meant to be at school as he was still recovering from an operation to have his appendix removed.

The attack was allegedly motivated by jealousy over Gobodo’s talent as a rugby player and the opportunities he had ahead of him.

Gobodo sustained third-degree burns and has since undergone 25 operations.

He spent 26 days at Tygerberg Hospital and was only able to begin playing rugby again this year.

After he expressed his wish to watch a Springbok match earlier this year, brewing company Heineken SA decided to make his dream come true by sponsoring his trip.

In addition to today’s World Cup match, Gobodo also had tickets to the game between England and the All Blacks yesterday.

“This is the biggest opportunity of my life and I am truly thankful that I can see Kolisi and the other amazing players in action.

“I look up to Kolisi because of his background and because he managed to get to the top despite various challenges.

“If I get the opportunity to speak to him, I will tell him that he motivated me to begin playing again.”

Gobodo had to re-enrol in Grade 9 this year because he has been unable to return to school since the incident.

His major goal is to get another rugby scholarship so that he can go and study somewhere.

Tokyo has been the best experience of his life, he said.

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