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Rugby | SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Sintu Manjezi © Gallo Images

How Rabada scared Manjezi into rugby

Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada is apparently partially responsible for the fact that lock Sintu Manjezi is playing rugby for the Tafel Lager Griquas in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.

As a scholar at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown, the East London native was also a provincial level cricketer who answered to the description of “right arm fast”, and being 23 now, the same age as Rabada, their paths – as well as that of Proteas allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo – did cross at school.

“I was quicker than he was in Grade 9 but then he got really quick,” remembers Manjezi. “I then played against him at Coca-Cola Week and he bowled me a bouncer that nearly took my head off. By then I couldn’t even get him back with what must have seemed like my medium pacers.”

The other reason Manjezi ended up playing rugby was his preference for it: “I also enjoyed rugby more. Cricket was long – you spent four days out in the field with some guy blocking, and I hated fielding – and rugby was more intense and physical.”

As it turns out, the 1.97m, 109kg Manjezi appears to have made the right choice, having already played Super Rugby for the Southern Kings as an under-21 player a couple of years ago. Alas, that early start stalled when the Kings were relegated from Super Rugby.

“After playing for them as an under-21, I got a contract with the Kings the next year but I wasn’t able to play one game with them,” explains Manjezi. “When we got relegated from Super Rugby I had two options: stay and hope for a Pro 14 contract or go to Griquas, play a little Currie Cup and make a name for myself.

“I went with Griquas because if they hadn’t played me before why would they suddenly play me? I was a bit bummed when Pro 14 was confirmed but I’m here now.”

Having left school as a blindside flanker who deputised at lock because he was “all about the stepping and not about the tackling”, Manjezi now sees himself as a four lock, having “learned to enjoy” the dark arts of what the likes of Bakkies Botha did for years.

“I now enjoy doing the dirty work of cleaning out, the physicality and defending.”

Griquas’ game against the Cell C Sharks XV at the Sisa Dukashe Festival in Mdantsane on Sunday is something of a return home for Manjezi, whose mother lives in Beacon Bay in East London, even though his private schooling means he’s never had to play at a community stadium.

“It’s a good initiative because the SuperSport Rugby Challenge is about taking rugby back to the communities. It gives people hopes and dreams and the kids watching buy into it when they see home grown players who have ‘made’ it,” says Manjezi, who’s looking forward to having his family watch him live.

Having avenged their narrow defeat against the Toyota Free State XV earlier in the season, which took away their unbeaten record, Griquas have a chance to take the lead in the Central Pool outright if they win the game against the Sharks, which is their game in hand.

“It’s quite an important game for us, we’re three points behind the Free State and we need to win the last two games in the group stages to have a home quarterfinal. The Sharks have played a lot of good rugby through the tournament but they’ve been inconsistent – but we can’t rely on that.”


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