Change the world


Balancing rugby and study commitments was no real hardship for Nelson Mandela University student Siphelo Sanyinyi. After all, the Madibaz first team player had already overcome far greater obstacles in his young life.

This month Siphelo, will cross the stage at the Indoor Sport Centre, South Campus, in Gqeberha as the first graduate in his family.

“I am so happy. I wanted to change my circumstances by getting an education. I have done it,” the Madibaz first team rugby loose forward enthused of his forthcoming graduation on Thursday, 20 April.

Those “circumstances” was that of rising above his impoverished upbringing in rural Transkei.

While he was much loved, there were no financial resources beyond a monthly social grant to support him and six other older siblings in the village of Qhogi, near Coffee Bay.

As a teenager, Siphelo walked 21km daily to attend school and “begged and borrowed” to support both his educational needs and love of rugby.

“It was hard getting to school, especially in winter in Transkei, but I was determined to persevere.”

To ensure that Siphelo reached school, he would leave home at 3am, using his phone to provide light.

Initially, he would walk with school friends, but by the time he reached his matric year, he and friend Nkosibonelele Nqolwana were the only ones still making the long walk “to a better future”.

“I am a believer. I knew I could – and can – change my situation by working hard. I was determined to succeed.”

This is why, during his Matric year when there were no longer any Maths or Physics teachers at his school, the learners and parents pooled their meagre resources to hire a tutor. This is where Siphelo begged and borrowed to pay his way to be part of these lessons.

His final Matric results enabled him to his dreams further and study at a university. And, as a bonus, to continue with his passion of playing rugby.

“Siya Kolisa is an inspiration to me,” said Siphelo who, after two years of NSFAS funding is now being supported by a Madibaz Sports bursary.

His innate talent and hard work saw him selected to play for Border at Craven Week throughout his primary and high school years.

He is presently studying an Advanced Diploma TVET, but still has his hopes set on nursing.

“Public Administration was never my first choice. I want to nurse. I love people. People have cared for me throughout my life. I want to care for others.”

But first, he wishes to graduate and get back to playing rugby again. He broke his leg in a warm-up game ahead of the present season, and only recently came off crutches.

He is looking forward to his graduation, despite the absence of his parents, Nomdabalala and Nojongile Sanyinyi, siblings and friends.

“My education and rugby journey has taught me much about life. My family may not have been able to support me financially, but they have supported me emotionally. I know they will be very proud.

“I want to inspire the people of my village both through my rugby career and my studies. I believe it is possible, even if you come from a disadvantaged background.”

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057