WATCH | First girl rugby player in Masiphumelele determined to show sport has no gender

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  • Zola Nondwayi is the first girl to join a schools rugby team in Masiphumelele, Cape Town.
  • She started playing rugby through the Atlas Foundation, a sports outreach organisation, when she was 10 years old.
  • Her dream is to prove that sport has no gender, and she wants to play for the Springboks one day.

While 14-year-old Zola Nondwayi has become a regular fixture on the rugby field, she stands out among the boys as the first girl to join a school team in Masiphumelele, Cape Town.

Nondwayi, who wants to show other girls they can play rugby, says she won't listen to the naysayers and will keep doing what she loves.

"I could see that there were no girls playing rugby, and I believe that sport has no gender, so I just decided to come and play rugby, to make some change," she told News24.

She started playing rugby through the Atlas Foundation when she was only 10 years old. The outreach organisation aims to empower children in the community through sport.

READ HERE | Kolisi and 5 others nominated for 2021 SA Players' Player award

Coach Teddy Nyali spotted her talent during a physical education class and asked if she'd be interested in joining the schoolboys' rugby team: 

I could see the way she runs first; she runs hard. Her spatial awareness, the way she sees space, I think that's very important when you play rugby and the way she sidesteps, the way she changes direction.

Although Nondwayi attends Masiphumelele High School, she and some of her rugby-playing peers train with the under 13s at the local primary school as they have limited sporting options.

Nyali said girls have fewer sporting options at the school, and he hopes to encourage them to try something new.

"They can only play netball, that's about it. So, I'm trying to change that. I'm encouraging them to play cricket, to get involved in soccer and rugby as well," he said.

READ | World Rugby 'in great shape' before France 2023

He said exposing children, especially girls, to sports encouraged them to dream that they can make it big.

"It's very important for the kids to play sports because when the kids go inside the community, there's a lot of violence and peer pressure... so, we teach them life skills, we teach them teamwork, we teach them respect, we teach them discipline, we teach them character," he said.

"We want them to be able to make good decisions, so it's life skills and then sports."

Nondwayi has big dreams of following in the footsteps of her role model and rugby hero, Springbok Babalwa Latsha.

"By training hard, being myself and not listening to all the people, because I used to get some negative comments from the people saying, 'Why are you playing rugby? Rugby is a male sport'. I will not listen to them and just play," she said.

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