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Young South Africans: Sport

Staff Reporter

Chiliboy Ralepelle, Khaya Zondo, Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe, Jessica Motaung, Ashleigh Simon, Natalie du Toit, Oscar Pistorius, Wayne Purnell and more ...

A chapter of the Mail & Guardian‘s 200 Young South Africans You Must Take to Lunch

Chiliboy Ralepelle
Few people are willing to enter into the heated debate about whether Springbok captain John Smit is the best hooker in the land. With this in mind, you can understand why Chiliboy is not enjoying as much game time in a Springbok jersey as he deserves. The trouble is he has to play in the same position as Smit. It is like having to be a flyhalf in the same team as Naas Botha in the 1970s and 1980s. It is simply bad timing and Chiliboy just needs to bide his time.

When his time does come, Chiliboy will hopefully reproduce the form that made him a world junior champion (under-19) and a finalist when he was captain of the under-21 side that won the silver. With Chiliboy it is only a matter of time.

Lunch spot: Any place that serves good pasta and a juicy steak

Khaya Zondo
Khayelihle became the second youngest player in the history of the Nashua Dolphins to play for the first team shortly before his 18th birthday. Such was his promise that he had a full kit sponsorship from Gunn & Moore when he was 15 years old. A talented batsman, Khaya, as he is known to friends and teammates, is poised to follow in the footsteps of his heroes JP Duminy and Herschelle Gibbs as one of South Africa’s great talents.

Lunch spot: Mugg & Bean, Pavilion, Durban

Nomsebenzi Tsotsobe
The South African women rugby team’s national captain has been a true ambassador for her sport. Born into a “rugby-mad” family in Kwa Magxaki, Port Elizabeth, in 1978, Nomsebenzi inspires young women into debunking the idea that one needs to be six foot with hairy legs to play the sport. Though South African women’s rugby is not anywhere near the men’s game, Nomsebenzi’s name will be mentioned by future generations of women players as one of the people who pioneered the feminine side of this macho game.

Lunch spot: Wimpy, Greenacres, Port Elizabeth

Jessica Motaung
Technically speaking, Jessica is not a sportswoman but rather an administrator at a sporting organisation—Kaizer Chiefs. Jessica is best placed to assume roles at the successful football club once her illustrious father Kaizer decides that he has done enough for the game that made him a household name as a player and an administrator for about 40 years.

Jessica has been responsible for packaging Chiefs as a commercial brand and leveraging its status as one of South Africa’s best-known commercial entities. Her experience as a businesswoman in her own right, plus the indisputable advantage of being a Motaung, sets her up to become one of the country’s most successful future sports bosses.

Ashleigh Simon
At 19 Ashleigh is to women’s South African golf what Gary Player was to the man’s game at the same age—a prodigy from whom much is expected. When she won the South African Women Amateur championships for the third time in 2007, she achieved a feat that had not been accomplished in 101 years.

It was inevitable that Ashleigh would have to test her considerable talents against her professional peers. A day after her 18th birthday she duly converted to the paid ranks. Three tournaments later she was on the podium receiving the trophy after being crowned the Catalonia Ladies Masters champion.

Natalie du Toit
In 1998, at the tender age of 14, Natalie competed at the Kuala Lumpur Games as an able-bodied athlete. Three years later she was involved in a motorcycle accident and lost one of her legs. Despite this setback, she was determined to prove a point and competed at the Manchester Games both as an able-bodied and a disabled competitor. She achieved her goal, swimming into a credible eighth place in the able-bodied 800m Freestyle and winning gold in the 50m and 100m Elite Athletes with a Disability races.

Today Natalie is one of the most successful disabled athletes of all time and continues to be an inspiration to athletes all over the world. Her two major dreams at this stage are to be able to run and to make it to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Congratulations Natalie, your Beijing dream has come true!

Lunch spot: Primi Piatti, Constantia Village or any place with great veggies and sweets. Also a lover of chocolates

Oscar Pistorius
The fastest thing on no legs has a burning ambition to take part in the Olympics. But the world athletics controlling body argues that the artificial legs he wears give him an unfair advantage. It says the blades are structured in a manner that they allow Oscar to conserve energy longer than able-bodied athletes and he therefore continues accelerating long after an able-bodied person would. Oscar was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated before he was a year old. But he later engaged in contact sports such as rugby and water polo until a knee injury sent him to athletics. Oscar is an ambassador for those who refuse to let life’s circumstances stand in the way of their dreams.

Lunch spot: Anywhere that serves good lasagne

Wayne Purnell
There are at least two reasons why you should keep this name in mind. The first is because South Africa under-19 coach and former international wicketkeeper Ray Jennings says so. Jennings, who coached Purnell at the last youth World Cup in Malaysia in March this year, has an impressive record of recognising young players who will make it in the cut-throat business and those who, despite their obvious talent, lack the decisive urge. The second reason is pedigree. The last under-19 captain at the youth cup went on to become South Africa’s youngest captain ever. Like Graeme Smith, who was the tournament’s best batsman, Purnell was the hero with the ball, finishing as the tournament’s highest wicket taker, with 18 victims from six matches.

Kass Naidoo
Kass achieved national attention as a sports show host and later as a cricket commentator on TV. Today she is commercial manager for Cricket South Africa. Knowing how it feels to break open doors that are shut for no other reason than that those knocking are of the “wrong” gender, Kass has founded a sports agency that aims to market the achievements of sportswomen.

Lunch spot: Tortellino D’Oro

Francois Steyn
Who wouldn’t want to take the youngest player to win the rugby World Cup out for a meal? Especially if the youngster in question is one of the most versatile players, able and comfortable as a wing, centre, inside centre or flyhalf. Frans is all that. What’s more, he is one of a handful of individuals who can boast about living a childhood dream of scoring the Word Cup winning points for his country. His match and World Cup winning penalty against England in the finals must have more than made up for the pain of missing the kick that effectively handed the Bulls the Super 14 title earlier in the season.

Lunch spot: Anywhere with a good atmosphere and good mates

Jessica Liss
Jessica missed going to the Beijing Olympics by a whisker. But at just 12 years of age you can bet she will be ready and able the next time the games are played. Jessica will have four years to perfect the technique that made her fall so agonisingly short of being the youngest member of the South African team to Beijing.

South Africa has a proud tradition of gifted swimmers, men and women. Jessica has high standards to live up to and there is every reason to believe she will do just that.

Lunch spot: Dulce’s, Walmer Park, Port Elizabeth

Khotso Motau
The Soweto-born rising star failed to win a medal at the Athens Olympics and regards it as one of the most disappointing moments of his career. There are many who would argue that Khotso is wholly capable of repairing this by winning a world title as a professional. He ended 11 of the 12 fights without the scorecard having to be a factor as his foes were left lying on the canvas while Khotso was carried on the shoulders of his fans. His one loss was against Canadian Shawn Garnett, who outpointed him. That said, Khotso would do well to ignore talk of him being on par with other great middleweights of the world such as “Marvellous” Marvin Hagler. There is still a long road ahead.

Itumeleng Khune
Considering that goalkeepers get better with age, it is scary to contemplate the kind of talent Kaizer Chiefs’ goalstopper Itumeleng will be by the time he turns 26—in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Not since Doctor Khumalo have Kaizer Chiefs supporters and officials entrusted their fortunes in an adolescent. Itumeleng will go down with the likes of Patson Banda, Gavin Easthorpe and the great Gary Bailey as one of the best goalkeepers to have come out of South Africa.

Kermit Erasmus
SuperSport United’s Kermit is a legend long before his time. Even those who have never seen him play know his is a name to keep in mind when talking about the new generation of great players.
With the stocky build of the legendary Diego Maradona, Brazilian superstar and Romario, Kermit has played for all of South Africa’s international sides (under-17, under-20 and under-23). He has been called up to the senior national team, but is still to win his first cap.

Next season Kermit will join Dutch side Feyenoord. This is significant because the Dutch are among the best in the world when it comes to identifying and developing talent. They also don’t have the media glare that makes it difficult for youngsters coming from outside of Europe to adapt to that continent’s culture of hard knocks. It is expected that Kermit will be part of the 2010 team. Then again, at 18 years old, he should be part of at least three more World Cup campaigns.

Lunch spot: Dulce Restaurant

Nolan Hofmann
Western Cape rider Nolan is currently the under-23 South African road champion, the top-ranked rider in track points and has finished most of his races with a place on the winners’ podium. International cycling writer Jean-François Quénet, who has tracked cycling events from Italy to Australia and Africa, said: “If there is a black sprinter in the Tour de France in the coming years, it might well be Nolan Hoffman.” This comment places a lot of pressure on the shoulders of this young cyclist. As a South African, he already has the pressure of being “the first black” to achieve whatever he will achieve on a bike. Making him a representative of blacks in the diaspora must be much harder. Hopefully Nolan will just keep riding his bike, giving the best he can and those who need to find inspiration will do so.

Lunch spot: Mimmo’s

Khotso Mokoena
You could say that long jump and triple jump exponent Khotso has been among the medals so many times that he is due the one that matters most: a gold medal at senior international level. It is only a matter of time before that happens. And don’t bet against it being in Beijing.

Mokoena has won medals at the All Africa Games, the Commonwealth Games, the African Championships, the World Athletics finals, and he came in fifth at the International Amateur Athletics Federation championships in Osaka last year. At 23 years old he still has time to live up to the potential we all know he has.

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi
Nothing underscores Mbulaeni’s status as a world-class athlete more than the fact that he has made the finals of the last four world championships he has participated in. It is this consistency that makes him a medal hopeful. His best performance this year was winning a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain.

Lunch spot: Nando’s

Gerhard Zandberg
It would be disrespectful to say that the South African gold medallists at the Athens Olympics—Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman and Lyndon Ferns—are past their best. They still rank among the best swimmers in the world, but the long-term future of swimming in South Africa belongs to Gerhard. He led the South African team to the World Short Course Games in Manchester earlier this year and won one of his heats, beating his 100m Africa record by 48 seconds.

Lunch spot: Indigo Mood, Pretoria

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