The year 2019 will be remembered by South African sport fans as the year of the World Cup qualifications.
Our men’s national cricket and rugby teams qualified for their respective world cups.
The cricket team didn’t live up to expectations, failing to reach the semi finals, in England, earlier this year.
The rugby side, on the other hand, are preparing for their World Cup opener against arch-rivals, New Zealand, later this month.
While everyone is talking about the men’s national teams, the SA women’s national rugby team quietly went about their business, qualifying for the 2021 rugby world cup, which will take place in New Zealand.
The side booked their spot in the world spectacle after producing a ruthless performance in the qualifiers, which took place in Brakpan last month.
They scored 201 points and conceding only five, as they beat Uganda (89-5), Madagascar (73-0) and Kenya (39-0).
The team is captained by UWC LLB graduate, Babalwa Latsha, from Khayelitsha. Plainsman sat down with her at Khayelitsha stadium, where she shared her short, medium and long-term goals with the paper.
On a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, Latsha took time off her busy schedule and made a short trip from her home in Site B to the stadium.
A product of South African Rugby Legends Association’s (SARLA) Vuka development programme, Latsha has represented the Western Province and South Africa at both Sevens and 15-a-side formats.
In its 10th year of existence, the Vuka programme prioritises “ongoing support” for rugby development across South Africa. However, it has not been all rugby for the multi-talented sports star, who was born in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape.
She started out playing football for Khayelitsha-based Goal Hunters FC. She was good at it, too, finding the back of the net with ease, as a striker.
“It was not really difficult for me to get into football in the first place. I am a curious person and that makes it easy for me to try new things,” she said.
That curiosity saw the 25-year-old prop venturing into another previously male-dominated territory, this time rugby.
“I played even more rugby as I got to UWC and, after few games I knew this is the game I wanted to play.
“I wanted to play for a number of reasons, I wanted to show other girls that they should not limit themselves.
“If they take any sport seriously, then they can go far. I wanted to be that positive influence,” she said.
Latsha then grabbed the rugby ball with both hands and, in no time, she was one of the more established players in her team. The national selectors were also watching. She quickly climbed the ranks and, in 2017, won South African Rugby’s Women’s Top Achiever award. And, as if that was not enough, she became national captain in 2018, having also served as vice-captain.
“Captaining the world cup-bound national team is of course a dream come true.
“It comes with lots of responsibilities. I know I am not one of the best players but, having said that I know talent and hard work go hand in hand. That’s why I keep on working on my talent,” she said.
She said she was now in a position to influence the future of Khayelitsha and other townships.
“I know there are many Babalwas out there, they just need to be found and nurtured. I want to be that beacon of hope but, of course, there is a time for everything,” said Latsha, who also captained UWC.
The future is looking even brighter for Latsha as she might find herself plying her trade for English giants, Saracens, if the ongoing negotiations go well.