FSC - Rugby - Carol Madi (FSC) (2)

With the advent of Bomb Squads and the like, rugby has become far more than the 15-player game it once was.

Yet, even in these times of benches looking more like a court gallery than seating for substitutes, having 13 players from the same team represent one provincial squad is remarkable.

UFH had the distinction of doing just that as they took possession of most of the slots in the Border U20 setup this season. Centre Lilitha Vakalisa and utility back Inga Qogi even went on to make their Springbok debuts in this age-group.

Coach Ntyatyambo Mkhafu said the university had gained a reputation for churning out provincial and national players and he was happy that his charges were receiving the recognition they deserved.

Some, like prop Mila Wawa, have risen to prominence extremely quickly. She only started playing the sport last year and is now an established member of the Border team.

Equally at home at loose or tighthead, she has taken to propping up the scrum as if she’s been doing it her whole life.

Having so many of her UFH teammates alongside her had certainly helped her feel at ease at provincial level, she said.

“It helps a lot that we know each other. They are amazing players.”

FSC - Rugby - Carol Madi (FSC) (2)

Fullback Carol Madi is one of 13 Fort Hare players who forced their way into the Border U20 squad this year. Photo: Full Stop Communications

While she did not yet feel “confident enough” to run out at senior level for Border, as had been the case with some of her peers, she hoped she could make the step up at some point.

She believed Fort Hare was such a force because of the passion of their players and coaching staff.

Another Baby Blues young gun, fullback Carol Madi, has represented the province at various age-group levels.

Originally from Mpumalanga, she attended boarding school at Daliwonga Senior Secondary in Cofimvaba where she started playing rugby in Grade 10.

“Playing for Border is exciting. You get to meet new people and learn new things.”

She, too, revelled in playing alongside those she knew so well. The presence of the likes of Vakalisa and Qogi was also a source of inspiration.

“I want to play for the Springboks even though I haven’t really considered it as a career. But I need to train really hard and listen to my coaches,” she said.

Tighthead prop Sitha Sobekwa, 20, is another whose talent shone through in her debut year.

There was no women’s rugby in her hometown of Willowvale so when the chance to play at tertiary level presented itself, she was in boots and all.

Playing for Border came unexpected.

“What’s really nice is that we are used to playing together [at Fort Hare]. Communication is easy.”

The fine arts student painted a clear picture of her potential in the machine room of the scrum, where she loved the adrenalin-charged matchups that made her “feel in control”.

She praised Mkhafu for treating every player the same.