When it seemed that everything around him was falling apart, when his rugby dream seemed to be at the crossroads, when the Southern Kings faced liquidation and he and his teammates had no income and had to survive on hand-outs, it was only the will to succeed and guts that kept him going.
This is the story of Yaw Osei Penxe’s rugby journey.
Penxe’s rugby story is one of inspiration, a journey that is still unfolding, a journey with a lot of detours that have made him the kind of rugby player he is today. Mental strength and perseverance in chasing that dream, the dream that has finally paid off with his selection to the Springbok extended squad for the British & Irish Lions tour.
The 24-year old, born and bred in Komani and schooled at the famous Queen’s College, became unemployed when the Kings were liquidated, but received a lifeline at the Sharks to revive an apparently wavering career.
His first break came after he caught the eye during the Springboks Showdown match at Newlands last year after the Kings’ demise. In that match, the winger excelled. He chased down everything, looked for work and did everything to score. His aerial dominance and speed off the mark, combined with his natural skill set, made him a potent weapon.
It was after this game that Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, who ironically coached Penxe with the Junior Boks and at the Kings said: “I know he is a player of great potential and you could see under the high ball he was aggressive. If I was a coach somewhere, I would take the opportunity to bring him in. I have worked with Yaw since he was 19 at the Kings. I also coached him at the Baby Boks in 2017.”
It was a remarkable change in fortune for Penxe, who took his chances and is on the brink of being a Springbok.
The former Queenian is a true product of the Eastern Cape, who represented Border twice at the U18 Craven Week and came through the ranks at the Kings Academy. He played both Super Rugby and Pro14 and was always one of the stand-out players in a rather dwindling Kings team.
He took his opportunity with both hands at the Sharks after he was initially given a short-term contract for the Currie Cup Reloaded. After impressing, his contract was extended.
Through the recent Currie Cup, Penxe was described as one of the finds of the tournament, an unexpected club hero, despite the Sharks having World Cup winners in Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi at their disposal. Mapimpi’s short stint in Japan also helped Penxe to establish himself as a starter in a star-studded Sharks team. To be able to rub shoulders and play with some of the best talent in South Africa has certainly had a positive effect on him.
As former coach Robbie Kempson said: “[Penxe] is a special talent, we know his strengths as an outstanding attacker and someone who can finish an opportunity when it comes. Whatever the environment he is in he will shine. He is the type who is determined to keep improving and evolving his skill-set.”
Penxe is one of eight new caps in the Springbok squad. It is these attributes that have left a lasting mark on Boks’ supremo Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber who are both excited to see the flyer develop.
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, recently announced the squad. Including Penxe, there will be an abundance of talent coming from the Border region in Lukhanyo Am (Zwelitsha), Makazole Mapimpi (Tsolomqa), Sanele Nohamba (Alice), Scarra Ntubeni (East London), Rosko Specman (Makhanda) and Aphelele Fassi (Qonce).