While soccer, rugby and cricket are the most prominent sporting codes for most township folk, a group of youngsters from Nyanga is breaking new grounds with the relatively unknown Australian rules football.
The youngsters will be representing South Africa in the sport’s global showpiece in Australia, where they will lock horns with countries such as Great Britain, United States, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
And if they win three of their four games in the round-robin stage of the contest, they will walk straight into the finals of the competition, with a good chance of bringing the silverware home.
South Africa, which is ranked 4th in the sport, could have it easy in the finals, that is if they make it, as they will be guaranteed to play a team outside the top five based on the competition’s format.
Top teams have been grouped together with teams outside the top five in their separate group. The 18-men sport is played in an oval pitch, with elements of rugby, soccer and basketball.
Nyanga and Khayelitsha are the only areas in Cape Town where the game is played, with Blue Birds and Devine respectively representing the two areas.
The two teams play in a national league with opposition from North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Blue Birds’ consistency in the league has been recognised with the inclusion of six of their players for the showpiece.
Two of the players, Xolisa Dutyulwa and Thimna Bartman, are from Oscar Mpetha High School. And on Friday July 28, the school bade them farewell. They were presented with money that had been raised by their peers and teachers. They were also given a chance to motivate other pupils, in an area that is notorious for crime.
For many years in a row, Nyanga has topped the country’s crime statistics and labelled the country’s murder capital.
However, the youngsters are putting their neighbourhood on the map for all the right reasons.
On Tuesday August 1, they flew out of the country to play their first game of the tournament against Britain on Sunday August 6. Their last group game is on Tuesday August 15, against Papua New Guinea.
Thimna, who will be making his second trip down under, said sport was a good tool to fight crime. “I am proud of myself,” he said.
“I just follow my heart. I do something that is going to take me to where I want to be. My aim is to win the tournament. This is also an opportunity to be spotted by an international club.”
Xolisa added that he could not sleep after he received news that he had been chosen to represent the nation.
“It is a lifetime achievement. I will get to see new things. Above all, we want to bring the trophy home,” he said.
Ecstatic principal Andile Matebe urged other pupils to follow in the footsteps of the pair. He said Nyanga was notorious with crime and most pupils at the school were involved in criminal activities. He said the achievements by the duo should be an encouragement to everyone in Nyanga. “They are not only flying Nyanga and Oscar Mpeta’s flag, they are flying the South African flag high,” said Mr Matebe.
Team captain and South African vice-captain Aubrey Velele said they wanted to grow the sport in the province. He stressed the importance of fitness and endurance. He said each player covers an average of 15 kilometres during the 80-minute match. From six players in the previous tournament in 2014, he said the province has eight players this year.
“We stand a good chance of winning this trophy,” he said.