My Rugby Journey, Part 1- The Blue Jersey

If the adage is true that life begins at 40, I suppose my pre-life has thought me this lesson so far…that life is not a straight line nor a combination of perfect plans nor well thought out processes. We make the best decision that we can at the time and often we do not know the weight of the decision and its potential impacts on our lives and those of our family.

I was 11 when I played my very first game of rugby- a sport that would give me opportunities to travel across most of South Africa, to fly in a plane, to travel overseas, buying myself a car, study at tertiary and mold me as a person. 

A few weeks before this first game, I had no idea what rugby was. I grew up in Ndaleni (the rural part of Richmond). At Ndaleni we played soccer. Soccer was sport and sport was soccer. We played on the only dusty field there was, and pretty much on any open and semi-level space that we could find. That is if there was any amongst us who owned a soccer ball.

One morning, at my new school of probably 3 months, we were required to select a sport for that new term. I had desperately hoped that soccer was one of the options, but alas…rugby and hockey (I think) were the choices. Wesley, a friend and class-mate suggested that I try rugby. “What’s that” I said. “Come to practice tomorrow and I’ll show you”. My response…“okay!”.

And so began a journey of discovery, of testing my tolerances to pain (mental and emotional) and a new world that would open up to me and my family [parents]. Mind you, my father was a very good player soccer player in his time. My dad LOVES the sport. He HATED rugby at the time…for many reasons that I may write about in future- remember this is 1993. He was so good at soccer that he went by the name “Computer”…which in the time when computers were rare and type-writers were the norm, was a major compliment to pay any player.

Rugby turned out to be a game that I was fairly good at, and that somehow came naturally to me. Once I had grasped the three basic rules I was good to go. Run straight. Run as fast as you can. Pass backwards. Got it! 

Fortunately I was faster than most people my age, so I had a 60% chance of success. As one of my coaches used to say…in rugby, you can’t beat pace.
By the time I left primary school (2 seasons later) I would be playing for their 1st team. It was a small school in a farming village so this was not a MASSIVE achievement.

What encouraged me though was that I was invited to the rugby trials. I honestly do not remember (and don’t think I fully understood) what the trials were for (ie. regional or provincial) but all I know is that I was happy to be there since I was one of a handful of players invited to the trials.

I didn’t make it any further than the trials. “But I was told that I am good”, I thought. I failed.

I was hugely disappointed, so much so that when I went to high school the next year, I had decided not to continue with rugby. I would again try to pursue my first love…and then Wesley happened. Again.

I guess the lesson learnt from my first two years of rugby was (in retrospect) that one never fully knows the consequences of choosing to say “okay” and embrace something new. In trying something new, you will probably have some big wins and fun along the way.

But failures will also come. They are inevitable. But we need to be able to continue…pick ourselves up and move forward in a positive direction. It also helps a lot if there is a Wesley in your life.

During this time of Covid and when many may feel like they have failed at the trials of life, of relationships, business and whatever else, remember that life is not a straight path and failing doesn’t make you a failure.

As the psychologist (Alfred Adler) said [I paraphrase], an event of trauma is only as impactful as the meaning that we ascribe to it. So, when you fail (and you will), choose to learn the lesson from the failure and not the easy option…to allow yourself to “be a failure”.

Failiure offers opportunities to learn and to grow and to become better versions of ourselves. We should avoid the temptation to define ourselves by the failuire. 

When I wore that first blue jersey, I did not know (nor could have foreseen) that I would eventually wear another blue jersey, and enviable jersey…with a small red daisy flower emblem on it.

I am the dude on the top left- not front right…just in case you get it twisted. Wesley is the red-head holding the ball.


  1. Pingback: My rugby journey, Part 2- The Red, Black and White Jersey – AYANDA ZACA

  2. Pingback: My Rugby Journey Part 3, The Black and White Jersey – AYANDA ZACA

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