A personal investment in rugby as a schoolboy is beginning to pay handsome dividends for FNB University of Fort Hare utility forward Ayabulela Xhosana.
The powerful Blues number eight steamrolled his way to the Player that Rocks trophy in the Alice team’s must-win FNB Varsity Shield match against the University of KwaZulu-Natal last week.
Outstanding in all facets of the game and adding a try to boot, Xhosana was recognised for his role in the 31-3 demolition job, a result which got the champions’ title defence back on track after two ungainly losses early on.
Xhosana, whose nickname is Irish because a friend once said he played “fancy rugby like you’re from Ireland”, felt his game had developed significantly during his stint with the Blues.
“My vision during matches has really improved but I know I have to work on my behaviour on the field. I just have to keep calm and not allow my emotions to boil over.”
The third-year BCom student admitted to sometimes seeing red when he was within touching distance of the 22m area and then felt the urge to bulldoze his way through the opposition.
The burly loose forward, who has been a stalwart of the Blues since 2021, said dedicating his time to rugby in high school – he often arrived home well after dark – put him on his current course.
Playing for St John’s College in Mthatha gave Xhosana, who represented Border Country Districts as an age-grouper, self-belief and allowed him to form many friendships.
“I feel it promoted the spirit of ubuntu and when I arrived at Fort Hare I was able to gel easily with my teammates because it wasn’t much different from where I came.
“The sport also taught me to be supportive of the people around me, no matter where they are from,” said Xhosana, who grew up in Qunu, the same village in which former president Nelson Mandela was born.
“We are one team and that spirit should be our first priority.”
Following a brace of victories over Rhodes and UKZN, he was of the opinion that the young and old within the squad were starting to gel.
“We are gaining confidence now that the younger players have settled in. We are ready to play now and determined to conquer whoever is in front of us.”
On Thursday, that “whoever” will be the Madibaz in Gqeberha. Xhosana was however wary of being too confident against the team who were currently second on the Varsity Shield log.
Despite some minor injuries in the squad, he said they would soldier on as the competition drew to a crescendo.
Kick-off is at 4pm.