UFH - Rugby - Nombuyelkezo Mdliki - U20 Springbok selection (FSC)

It’s all coming together for Baby Blues prop Nombuyekezo Mdliki.

The 21-year-old University of Fort Hare forward is well on her way to emulating the achievements of the varsity’s Sevens star Asisipho Plaatjies after being called up to the Springbok alignment camp earlier this year.

The get-together, held at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in July, introduced the Nyandeni-reared player to the team’s strategic plans for the future and how they aimed to accomplish their goals.

Not bad for a woman who only six years ago had no interest in rugby.

“I started when I was 15 in Grade 10. I never considered playing but my teacher, Mr Mosiuoa, forced me to,” she remembered.

“That’s when I started enjoying being on the field.”

The country might owe the Chief Henry Blokeni Senior Secondary School educator a debt of gratitude as Mdliki has been unstoppable ever since.

Last season proved to be her breakout year, having been selected for both Border’s U20 and senior teams for the first time.

UFH - Rugby - Nombuyelkezo Mdliki - U20 Springbok selection (FSC)

University of Fort Hare prop Nombuyekezo Mdliki is considered one of South Africa’s rising stars in the position. Photo: Supplied

The Baby Blues veteran, now in her fourth year with the team, earned her first national cap when she ran out for the Springbok U20 side against Zimbabwe last season.

She also had the “privilege” of representing Fort Hare at the 2023 Varsity Cup, while becoming a mainstay of the senior Border side. She won woman of the match against Boland Dames for good measure.

Her powerful season in the front row, where she is happy to play at both tight and loosehead, caught the eye of the selectors who invited her to attend the camp in the Western Cape.

“My ability to adapt and adjust to change is my strength,” Mdliki explained her flexibility in choice of playing positions.

The third-year commerce student was understandably “nervous and anxious” before meeting up with the best female players in the country.

She soon settled in and found that there was a lot of caring among the players.

“What I learnt at the camp is that your willingness to sacrifice and put in effort is what makes you successful.

“I enjoyed being around different kinds of people and feeling loved.”

While she did not expect to be called up to the camp, she believes “everything happens at the right time” in life.

Mdliki is a very proud member of the Baby Blues and praises coach Ntyatyambo Mkhafu and his team for their passion.

She also admires Plaatjies for what she has achieved as a fellow Fort Hare player and looks up to South African stars like Aseza Hele and Aphiwe Ngwevu.

Though she is now clearly in the running to make her full Bok debut at some point, she will not be resting on her laurels as she aims to become the best player she can be.