13 February 2022


    Vodacom Bulls prop Gqoboka binds himself to fatherhood

    As much as Gqoboka is a force of nature on the rugby field, he is a fatherhood force off it as he takes that same intensity and focus and applies it to raising his sons.

    On the field, Springbok and Vodacom Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka is well used to scrumming down against the challenge of an opposing pack of forwards. Off it, the 31-year-old puts all 115-kilogrammes and every bit of his heart and soul into scrumming down to the serious business of fatherhood, and being present in the lives of his two young boys.


    As much as Gqoboka is a force of nature on the rugby field, he is a fatherhood force off it as he takes that same intensity and focus and applies it to raising his sons.


    “As a father, you are your sons’ first hero. That’s a big responsibility and it’s something to be intentional about,” says Gqoboka, who on 5 March will be intentional about spending time “crouching and bonding” with his sons Ndalo (13) and Iyana (3) at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld.


    Gqoboka’s desire to always be a present dad in the lives of his sons is what has drawn him to the annual Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout and its core focus of ensuring that dads are given the perfect space to connect and make lifelong memories with their sons.


    “I’ve watched this event grow in the time I’ve been at the Vodacom Bulls. As players and dads, we’re always excited for it and to be able to just be with your sons at Loftus. I mean, that’s a place of dreams, and for our kids to just be able to walk on that field and imagine one day maybe playing there themselves, that’s powerful,” says Gqoboka.


    But for Gqoboka, the true power of the event is the bond it strengthens between fathers and their sons. On a field that has seen the greatest stars in rugby, this particular weekend is more about fathers and sons lying on their backs and looking up at the stars in the night sky above Loftus, and reconnecting in a fast-paced world.


    “It’s crucial. With the busy schedules we all have as fathers, it’s an amazing initiative by Vodacom because it stirs something in you to be even more intentional about your role as a dad. As much as we want to provide for our families, we must be present as fathers. It’s important as fathers that we understand the honour of being a father, and the responsibility. A good dad is the first person to set the standard to his sons of how they act at home, and how they treat their mother and everyone else in society. It’s a massive responsibility, but one that overflows with joy.”


    With a tough childhood of his own and a mountain of obstacles he had to overcome to achieve his professional rugby dream, Gqoboka has a focused idea of the kind of father he wants to be to his boys. To the extent that he has very specific conversations with his teenager.


    “I’ll give him a topic to discuss. For example, I’ll say to him, ‘Hard work. What does that mean to you?’ Or, ‘Tell me what you understand about integrity’. Topics like that. Then we discuss it – maybe over an ice cream or something. I think it’s about being intentional about educating your sons for the world one day. Even when it comes to finances and teaching them to maybe avoid the mistakes you made.”


    And unlike in a team environment, there are no off days in fatherhood.


    “You know, yesterday we had a tough day of training with the Vodacom Bulls. It’s called a Man-Up Day. It’s scrumming and gym and running. So when I came home, I was pretty tired. And my son asked me to play football. I said to him, ‘Why don’t you ask your brother to play with you?’ And he said, ‘No daddy, I want you to play’. Even when you’re tired, you need to always Man-Up to fatherhood.”