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    23 March 2021


    Matanzima’s march towards ‘Future Champs’ glory

    Sometimes, it’s necessary to step back in order to move forward on the journey towards becoming a future champ in South African rugby.

    Sometimes, it’s necessary to step back in order to move forward on the journey towards becoming a future champ in South African rugby.

    For 23-year-old Vodacom Bulls loosehead prop Simphiwe Matanzima, that step back came in Grade 11. And it was one of the most important moments on his journey, which he is now sharing as part of Vodacom’s focus on the future stars of the Vodacom Bulls.

    “In Grade 11 at Queen’s College in the Eastern Cape I played First Team in the beginning of the year and then I was dropped. At that time I started losing interest in rugby. You get negative once you go through something like that,” says the man who at Under-11 level was already nicknamed “Beast” by his coach after the great Springbok prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira.

    “But my second-team coach really influenced me to get my passion back for the game and start enjoying my rugby again. He reignited my love for rugby. Everyone has an experience of this in high school. Some players will play A team level their whole life, from Under-8 through to the First Team. But some guys are late bloomers. It’s important that if you really have a passion for the game, sometimes you just need to take a step back and find that passion again. If you’re good enough, the cream will always rise.”

    “It’s kind of easy in the beginning and at Under-15 and Under-16 level, but once you start competing at First Team Level against the top schools in the country, that’s the first time you can really test how good you are compared with how good you think you are.”

    Matanzima was certainly good enough to catch the eye of the Vodacom Bulls scouts, and after school he found himself headed for Loftus Versfeld as a future champ of this proud union.

    “It’s a massive honour for me to be playing for the Vodacom Bulls. Growing up in Queenstown, I always had a passion to play rugby at the highest level. To be able to have been given this opportunity to come to a union like the Vodacom Bulls at Under-19 level and then work my way through the age groups to finally reaching that level of playing senior rugby is just such a massive honour for me.”

    The moment of truth for Matanzima came in 2019. He was handed the Vodacom Bulls jersey and asked to pull it on for his debut Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Stormers.

    “I’ll never forget that first time I pulled on the Vodacom Bulls jersey at senior level. We were playing the Stormers and it was a tough game. Loftus Versfeld was packed. I was so nervous. But that core group of senior players just told me, ‘Look, we know it’s your first cap. Don’t try to do too much. You’ve been picked for a reason. You know you can compete. Take your time and play the game you know how to play, and you’ll be fine’.”

    With that mindset, Matanzima took the field against the backdrop of a cheering Loftus Versfeld. Everything he had dreamt of since a boy of seven, everything he had worked towards, the obstacles he had overcome, the step back he took when he was dropped in Grade 11 – it all came down to this moment.

    That moment was his first scrum as a prop for the Vodacom Bulls in the toughest rugby competition in the southern hemisphere. But Matanzima knows full well there is a time in your career as a rugby player when you maybe need to take a step back, and a time when you need to stand firm. And as those front rows hit, he stood firm.

    “I stood my ground. That’s when I knew I could compete at this level.”

    In the great history of props that have pulled on the Vodacom Bulls jersey, Matanzima is building his own legacy as a “Future Champ”.

    And because he listened to those senior players in the changeroom, he knows, “I’m here for a reason”.

    To learn some fun facts about our future champ Simphiwe Matanzima, download the Vodacom Bulls App now on your App store.