Madibaz - Chris Kachungunu

Powerful Madibaz forward Chris Kachungunu has been living his dream out on the rugby field, but it has been one shared with his teammates.

The lock, standing tall at a shade under two metres, was named the Player that Rocks in his team’s 30-0 whitewash of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in their FNB Varsity Shield encounter last Friday.

Kachungunu, who made his first team debut in 2022 after impressing for the Young Guns, was surprised at receiving the accolade because of the “many great performances” in the match.

“This is the first time I have won it and, to be honest, I was shocked at first,” the 21-year-old admitted after leading the Gqeberha side to their second straight win.

“But when they came up to me, I was really happy and grateful. I couldn’t help but let my excitement show, as you can probably see from the picture they took.”

Yet, the forward, who does duty on the flank of the scrum from time to time, acknowledges that nothing is achieved on the pitch as a solo warrior.

“It really wasn’t just me,” he said, pointing at the rest of the team’s role in stealing almost all of their opponents’ lineout balls and several scrums to boot.

“That took their forwards out of the game, which is exactly what we wanted. I did what was expected of me – being a nuisance to them in the lineout and on defence and even attack.”

Madibaz - Chris Kachungunu

Madibaz forward Chris Kachungunu, voted the Player that Rocks, goes on the charge in their FNB Varsity Shield match against University of KwaZulu-Natal in Gqeberha last Friday. Photo: Michael Sheehan

The fourth-year biokinetics student highlighted the importance of dominating up front.

“It all starts with the forwards and if you can shut down their forwards, you deprive their backs of the ball. That’s exactly what we did.”

Early on, the Mandela University side were guilty of making a few unforced errors but they maintained their composure to start dominating the game.

“From there, the points just started racking up,” Kachungunu noted.

The Madibaz giant grew up in Pretoria before, eventually, settling in Arcadia with his mother and twin sister.

“I’m really grateful for all that she (his mother) has done, especially on her own.”

Although she “wasn’t really a fan of sports”, he persisted until he had won her over. “And look where we are now.”

His sister’s sporty side also helped motivating Kachungunu, who towers 1.97m above his togs these days.

“We always pushed each other to achieve over the years. She and my mom have been my main support.”

He started playing when he was around 10 years old and still remembers the excitement as if it were yesterday.

“We ran around chasing the ball like a bunch of headless chickens,” he recalled. “We just wanted to sidestep everyone on our own.”

It is evident that the sport has become a huge part of his life.

“To me, it’s not just a game, it’s a passion that brings me joy every time I play.”

He is cognisant of the fact that his on-field decisions can make or break his team and have been focusing on improving his carrying technique and decision-making.

The former is crucial in attack and for player safety while the latter leads to better choices under pressure, especially as a lineout caller.

The Madibaz are determined not to get carried away by the perfect start to their 2024 campaign.

“There’s a great spirit and the boys are amped up, but we know we can’t allow this to go to our heads as the job is not yet done.”

They are expecting Friday’s third-round clash at home against the University of Fort Hare to be a huge one.

The visitors will arrive on their turf with “big forwards and very quick backs”, so it will again be down to executing their systems effectively.