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Wongalethu High School clerk ignites pupils’ rugby dreams

Rugby coach Athabile Chris Ngoloyi, from Mdantsane commits himself to developing schools and community sport.
Rugby coach Athabile Chris Ngoloyi, from Mdantsane commits himself to developing schools and community sport.
Image: ALAN EASON

Athabile Ngoloyi works behind a desk as the administrative clerk at Wongalethu High School in Mdantsane but as soon as the bell rings, he is on the rugby field, coaching boys and girls on how to kick, scrum and run.

Ngoloyi, 36, said when he arrived at Wongalethu in 2020 no sports were offered to its 800 pupils. 

“Learners were doing nothing — I wanted to revive the sport and reduce drug and alcohol abuse.” 

He introduced an after-school coaching programme and today coaches 100 pupils in three teams in the under-15 and under-18 age groups, one of them an all-girls side. 

Baxolele Klaas, 17, a Border Academy under-18 squad member, said Ngoloyi had helped him transform his outlook.

I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. When I was chosen for Border my mind changed and saw that this was serious

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. When I was chosen for Border my mind changed and saw that this was serious.

“As a coach, Mr Ngoloyi taught me discipline, respect and how to kick.

“I couldn’t kick, I was just a flyhalf with a dream and he pushed me to see rugby as my career.”  

Ngoloyi joined forces with 2019 Local Hero Finalist Xhanti Msauli, 40, founder of the Xhanti Msauli Foundation, and Hurricanes Rugby Club in 2015.

“I never studied sport, it's born in me,” Ngoloyi said.

“My mother was a netball player and my father played rugby.”  

Working with the foundation, Ngoloyi has coached more than 400 young players, organised the administration, sourced sponsors and communicated with parents for six years.

Msauli said: “Athabile joined me in 2018 at Zonhle High School and he helped me by coaching, organising players, writing letters to parents to help with travelling, organising events and finding sponsors.

“He was part of the school’s programme and would look into the [pupils’] academic results to help bridge their sport and academic futures.”

Last weekend, Ngoloyi organised and hosted Wongalethu High’s first-ever rugby festival with 12 participating schools from Mdantsane, Nxarhuni, Ntabozuko (formerly Berlin), Duncan Village and East London.

The event was broadcast live on the SuperSport App for mobile devices from the Mdantsane Rugby Stadium.

The Wongalethu Girls played their first official match, against Eden High School, in the under-18 category and won 25-10. 

The vice-caption of the Wongalethu girls rugby team, Emihle Thoni,18, said playing in the rugby festival was the “coolest thing ever”. 

“I had no interest in other sports. When I was younger I used to play with the boys, but now my wishes have come true.

“One day I want to be a role model like Siya Kolisi, for girls,” Emihle said. 

“Mr Ngoloyi is pushing us to where we want to be.”

We communicate with each other and that’s the key. He sees every child as an achiever

Her teammate, Sibabalwe Laseni, 16, said when she heard there would be a girl’s team she was eager to sign up, even though she had no experience.

“We communicate with each other and that’s the key. He sees every child as an achiever,” Sibabalwe said.

Msauli was a commentator at the festival and said the event brought something new to the school.

Though we don’t get paid, we are trying to show kids direction with the sport.”

Msauli said he was happy that Ngoloyi was being recognised for his years of dedication to uplift his community. 

“I’m very proud of him, though he doesn’t like the spotlight. He is making a big impact on the community and truly deserves it.”

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