UFH - Rowing - Alvin Rukuni

One of Fort Hare’s star rowers, Alvin Rukuni, had to negotiate uncharted waters on his way to representing his country internationally.

The East London-based LLB student will be flying the flag for Zimbabwe at the Africa Beach Sprints regatta in Tunisia from June 18 to 25 – almost a year to the day after being invited to trial for the university’s rowing team.

Rukuni specialises in coastal rowing, a discipline that requires participants to overcome challenges like choppy ocean waters and tides.

“It was all a coincidence how I got into rowing,” he said ahead of his flight out on June 16.

“One of my friends in the SRC was going to watch [a regatta] and I tagged along. The coach asked me to try out and here I am.”

The 24-year-old took to the sport like a duck to water but it was what he did next that really spoke to his character.

When one of his coaches mentioned that his country of birth would not have a representative in Tunisia, he approached the sports federation and volunteered.

UFH - Rowing - Alvin Rukuni

Alvin Rukuni, 24, is taking his impressive rowing form at Fort Hare to the Africa Beach Sprints regatta in Tunisia, where he will represent Zimbabwe. Photo: Supplied

He submitted some of his personal best race times and proof of his participation in the University Sport South Africa rowing competition and, once this had been done, was told that he would hear from the federation.

A nervous two months passed before the answer he was hoping for came: he would be representing his country in North Africa! His audacious move had paid off.

While he usually races in the eights, fours and pairs for Fort Hare, he will be competing in the singles competition in Tunisia.

Rukuni spent his formative years between Zimbabwe and South Africa and was hellbent on making a go of rugby until that chance encounter with rowing forever changed his sporting compass.

Having to travel from East London to rugby practice in Alice every week was also taking its toll, so being able to row close to home with Buffalo City’s Eastern Cape Rowing Association was further reason to convert.

Additionally, he found that rowing had many of the same elements as rugby in terms of mentality and preparation.

He loves that his fellow Fort Hare rowers are intensely committed to their craft – and each other. Like a true fraternity, they also hold one another accountable for not showing up for training or slipping in studies.

Off the water, coach Lunga Mcetywa, sports officer Timothy Leeuw and mentor Kate Godfrey are the coxswains who plot the future direction of one of the university’s most popular sports and Rukuni has nothing but praise for their stewardship.

The oarsman is clearly never short of surprises but perhaps one of the biggest is that he is yet to tell his parents.

Not that he isn’t dreaming big; making the Zimbabwean Olympic team for Paris 2024 is very much on his radar.

Right now, though, it’s all eyes on Tunisia, doing the best he can and enjoying the moment. And what a moment it promises to be.