It was in Monaco, May 25, 2000, when the greatest statesman, Nelson Mandela, handed over the Lifetime Achievement Award to a man who is regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, at the first Laureus World Sports Awards. His speech, after 20 years, still echoes in the echelons of many sportspeople around the world.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else can. It speaks to the youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
Hlela Mbasana is a man on a mission to the change the lives of young men through sport. He is the founder of Komani Rugby Development. Hlela started the initiative when he found a group of boys from Mlungisi and Newvale constantly practising and playing rugby without any supervision or guidance. As a passionate rugby player himself, Mbasana stepped in to assist by dedicating his time and expertise to guiding and helping these aspiring dreamers with raw talent and skill. Mbasana was later joined by Ayakha Skweyiya in nurturing the young rugby players, aged between 12 and 16.
The main objective of Komani Rugby Development is to one day turn the club into an academy. The aim of such an academy is to bridge the gap between the public schools and the former Model C schools to bring equal playing opportunities to the field of play. This, in turn, will become a feeder system to top rugby schools in Komani.
With that window of opportunity Mbasana and Skweyiya believe that these boys could be snatched up by bigger schools like Queens’s College or Hangklip who have the resources and facilities at their disposal to develop them into better players and ultimately push them to become provincial and hopefully national players.
This will also keep the boys busy and off the streets by participating in sport instead of doing drugs and being involved in criminal activities.
Coaching and nurturing talent at such a young age will also assist rugby in Komani in the long run. These players can develop into superstars locally and can be of huge benefit to local rugby clubs.
The group is growing rapidly, and numbers are at 50 with an U13 and an U16 team already playing various matches.
With such initiatives comes the burden of finance and sustainability. Mbasana said: “We are in the process of engaging various stakeholders to ensure that this project is successful and sustainable.
“We hope and pray that big business will come to the party and assist wherever they can. We are thankful to those who have already opened their hearts and pockets in seeing the bigger picture and that is to develop these aspiring young rugby players.”
Rome was certainly not built in one day, but with the passion and dedication shown by Hlela Mbasana and Ayakha Sweyiya this dream can become a reality.