Share Their Story

Michael Kumbirai (22)

Athlete and student

Michael Kumbirai is professional rugby player for DHL Western Province as well as an economics and finance student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He is committed to achieving his full potential as he faces both internal and external battles in pursuit of his version of greatness.

Making an impressive appearance for the Blue Bulls at the 2014 Craven Week, the young athlete was part of the SA Schools selection where he was selected for the U19 Baby Boks training camp in 2015 and was offered a position at the Western Province Rugby Institute in 2015. He was selected as Western Province U19 Forward of the Year that same year. Kumbirai has since solidified his role in the U21 Currie Cup and for the UCT Ikeys in their Varsity Cup campaign to date and continues to dominate in his position both on the field and personal capacity as well.

Suffering from three major career injuries, the experiences grounded him as he worked his way out of dark periods and began to realise the ebbs and flow of life and how each experience could potentially shape you. He therefore chooses to see the best in other people, knowing that the sides that others may view as negative are circumstantial and last only for that moment.

Raised in South Africa, he is influenced by his Zimbabwean heritage and inspired by his parents who successfully navigated their journey from Zimbabwe to settle in South Africa and achieve their dreams. He also draws inspiration through music and sport. Sport inspires the drive in him to succeed in his career and fulfill his innate potential whilst music inspires his more soulful side. Kumbirai’s consideration and love for people continues to add to his success as a whole. “I’ve been told many times over that I’m too nice and that trait is not usually associated with those that excel in my field. I want to be able to maintain this trait and normalise it more within sports and the world in general with whatever influence I have.”

He believes that the world needs more kindness and compassion with all the inequality that currently persists. “Helping others achieve their dreams will benefit the masses. This will lead to greater success over time.” This is a lesson he has learnt through his involvement in team over his illustrious career thus far. — Leigh Wils

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Adam Arnold Mkasi, aka Coach Ma-Ada (32)

Adam Arnold Mkasi, aka Coach Ma-Ada (32)

Founder and head coach, Silky Stars Football Academy

Adam Arnold Mkasi (aka Coach Ma-Ada) breathes football. His love for the game sees him sharing his expertise with everyone around him. He uses his passion for developing people through sport to persevere despite the odds against him.

Hailing from Ndhambi wa Dzumeri village in Giyani, Limpopo, his love for the game was honed at an early age playing football in the dusty streets. His brother Reddy Mkasi, also committed to the development of football in their community, allowed the young Adam to accompany him to such sessions from the age of four. His interest in understanding the game in its entirety became central to his passion and commitment for the game. Through support from his English teacher Colly Chauke in high school, he started coaching the school’s football team from the age of 15. Balancing the position of head coach and doing well in school stretched him a great deal as his love for football coaching continued to blossom. He progressed to coach the local community football club, the Dzumeri Real Zebras, in grade 10. Many of his teammates were older than him.

After completing matric, he moved to Gauteng to obtain football coaching qualifications and live his dream, a journey that had its many ups and downs. While he attained his football coaching and administration course and sports management diploma, his team, the Alexandra Ladies Football Club, were promoted from the Absa Women’s League to the Sasol Women’s League. He got the opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals in the game and grow even further.

In 2011, he decided to start his own football academy, the Silky Stars Football Academy through which he continues to develop children’s football skills. In 2016, he joined the SAPS as a police officer, and coached the Tshwane SAPS Academy , where he won the championship title. He then went onto win the bronze medal as head coach a year later in the SAPS Women’s National Championship.

Next up, he plans to develop football coaches, write his own manuals and create tutorial videos. He wants to build his legacy by creating a longstanding football academy to ensure the development of football and his people. Outward success is a mere reflection of the high standards he holds for himself. He says self-development is key in his success formula. “I want to beat my own records everyday as success is a battle between me, myself and I only.” — Leigh Wils

Bongane Makhonjwa (27)

Bongane Makhonjwa (27)

Founder, Spark Youth Alive Project

Bongane Makhonjwa is a community youth leader passionate about combining leadership and sports. His passion for youth development through sport is how he aims to impart leadership skills, improve business acumen and life skills, which he believes can help alleviate poverty, upskill others and create better opportunities for the youth in his community.

Born in Meadowlands, Soweto Zone 4, his family moved to Orange Farm in the south of Johannesburg where he and four siblings were raised by their mother after his father passed away in 1992. Growing up, the energetic and passionate young man dreamed of following in his grandmother’s footsteps as she served as a leader in her community by fighting for workers union rights at the time. He wanted to lead the community just like she did.
After her passing in 2013, his cause was accelerated and his purpose solidified.

He joined Grassroots Soccer as a life skills coach. The move led to him being chosen as a Laureus Youth Empowerment through Sport (Yes) programme leader where he was promoted as a pioneer and mentor for new entrants. A graduate pioneer of the Laureus Yes programme, in 2013 he was one of twelve youth coaches selected to attend a coaching and skills development exchange programme for basketball in the United States through the US department of sport, also attending the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation’s annual project in Cape Town for two years.

Makhonjwa went onto find the Spark Youth Alive project in 2014 and is chairman of the SAFA Orange Farm Local Football Association in which he is committed to improving the lives of South African youth through sporting activities.

An avid believer in self-development, he aims to absorb as much as he can to grow into the best version of himself and empower others around him to succeed too. “I believe I was sent to this world to learn as much as I can and use sport to empower people, as a tool to implement change and give hope, just as it did for me as a young youth leader growing up in a disadvantaged environment.” — Leigh Wils

Bongiwe Msomi (30)

Bongiwe Msomi (30)

Netball player and captain, Proteas

Bongiwe Msomi didn’t have much say when she was elbowed into the netball world. It’s something she’s grateful for to this day. Watching her neighbourhood friend from the sidelines, the then 16-year-old was asked to step into the court so they could have a full practice game. The next Monday, her soon-to-be coach and mentor, Sthembiso Mncwabe, insisted she come to training that day.

“I tried to get away from it,” she says. “I was a bit intimidated with some of the girls as I had less knowledge and skills for the sport. Luckily we didn’t really have much choices back then. If the teachers thought you were good in something, saw the talent in you, they would help you through it and you would just have to respect and trust them. I’m pleased he insisted I play and until today, he’s still my mentor. I have huge respect for him.”

Msomi would thrive on the court but it was just the beginning of her challenges off of it. She was given multiple opportunities in and around her home province of KwaZulu-Natal but struggled to grab them due to steep travelling fees. Shortly after beginning her studies at the Durban University of Technology she took on a job to support both her home and her netball career. “I still wonder how I use to manage. But I did. Though all this, I still kept on training hard and made the teams that I never thought I would. Long story short, you can achieve anything if you put your mind into it. I truly believe that!”

Now the Proteas captain, she has put her ability on display around the world. At club level she has represented two teams in England’s Netball Superleague — the Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball. She’s currently plying her trade in Australia for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. On the international scene, Msomi is targeting a successful season with South Africa as they prepare to make an impact at the 2019 Netball World Championships.

Msomi promises there’s far more to come, during and after her playing career. “It has always been my dream to have a successful netball academy,” she reveals. “I love coaching and being part of the development of netball. It would be great to have a platform where I can educate (mainly about life skills and common issues around being a sportswoman), coach and share my knowledge with the girls while monitoring their progress. I have taken a few steps towards this and hopefully it will happen.” — Luke Feltham

Innocent Zikhali (27)

Innocent Zikhali (27)

Full contact karate professional

Innocent Zikhali is a full contact karate professional who’s also currently completing his BSc master’s in Chemistry under the stream of nanomaterial sciences at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. Born in KwaZulu-Natal but raised in Lenasia South, he considers himself a renaissance man, currently solidifying his mark in the world.
Raised by his grandmother, who supported and raised him to be an independent individual, he was determined to be defined by his own standards he set for himself. Refusing to be labelled as a “shortsighted albino”, he strives for academic excellence and continues to test his limits as a sportsman both physically and mentally.

His interest in karate stemmed from movies. He was not allowed to do outdoor sports due to his visual impairment and karate served as a means for him to exercise his physicality and strength. He says he is fortunate to be under the tutelage of Shihan Isaac “The African Tiger” Mashinini who has groomed Zikhali since his early 20s and helped him grow both professionally and personally.

To date, he has won the Matlosa tournament, placed second at the All African Tournament in 2016, and plans on competing in the World Tournament in Japan in 2019, eventually reaching the Olympics in 2020 and World Cup in 2021. He was sportsman of the 2016-2017 period at his university and holds a 6th degree black belt. He hopes to be a sensei one day.

One of his greatest challenges to date was participating in the karate world cup and taking the black belt grading test. He was the only African out of over 70 candidates. The experience itself reinforced the idea that he is not defined by his visual impairment or skin and that Africans are more than capable of competing on a world stage as equals. He went onto rank 32nd in the world in his division and continues to strive for greater heights.

He believes a successful person is one who brings others along the journey as they strive to reach their goals. Kind people inspire him, as does the strength of the human spirit that never gives up. He realises the role he can play in inspiring others through his life story and hopes to do his best in all things. Serving people by doing his best, practising kindness and showing others it is possible if one works hard are the values he wants his life to encompass. — Leigh Wils

Lungi Ngidi (22)

Lungi Ngidi (22)

Fast bowler, Proteas

The fall of India’s last wicket in Centurion confirmed one of the greatest innings by a South African on Test debut since readmission. Lungi Ngidi took six wickets wickets for only 39 runs to achieve that feat, earning a total match score of 7/90 with an amazing strike rate of a wicket every 22.5 balls.

That man-of-the-match performance in January was vindication for a decision to dedicate his life to the sport. “I’ve always played cricket, but it wasn’t my main focus at first,” says the 22-year-old. “I was also a decent rugby player and I would get involved in swimming and athletics; I pretty much did it all. I only really started focusing on cricket in grade nine.”

It was that sporting prowess that earned Ngidi a scholarship to the prestigious Hilton College in KwaZulu-Natal. He thrived in those formative years — his high school coach would later say that he always knew the precocious fast bowler was destined to make it big with the Proteas.

Yet to reach his prime, there is no limit to what Ngidi can achieve in the national set-up. Coming off the back of winning the Indian Premier League in his first season, another spectacular debut, the pacer is now fully focused on taking South Africa to the pinnacle of cricket in all formats of the game. “I aim to stay in the national side and deliver big performances as consistently as I can. I’ll prepare as best I can for upcoming tours and tournaments.”

With the World Cup less than a year away, such enthusiasm will be a beautiful sound to coach Ottis Gibson. Alongside Kagiso Rabada, the Proteas now have two of the most promising fast bowlers in cricket and will have realistic hope that 2019 is the year they lose their unwanted reputation of choking under pressure.

“Listening, listening is a massive skill that helped me along the way; sometimes people think they know it all,” Ngidi says of his journey to the big stage. “Listening to the information and advice that you get given is really important. You have to realise that everyone’s path is different. It takes different times for different people to succeed and reach their goals.”— Luke Feltham

Kgothatso Montjane (32)

Kgothatso Montjane (32)

World number 8 women’s wheelchair tennis player, Wheelchair Tennis South Africa

Limpopo-born Kgothatso Montjane is a wheelchair tennis player currently ranked number eight in the world in the women’s division.

Born with a congenital deformity of one leg and hands, Montjane’s other foot was amputated when she was just 12 years old. Despite her prosthetic leg, it wasn’t long before she was winning trophies for ballroom and Latin-American dance. At the age of 20, Montjane’s tennis career took off after the Airports Company South Africa provided facilities for her to play wheelchair tennis in her community. The sport was introduced to her while she was at Helen Franz Special School in Bochum, Limpopo. When they noticed her affinity for the sport, Montjane’s teachers at school encouraged her to take it up and represent the school in Johannesburg. She kept playing and fell in love with the sport, travelling to far flung corners of the world to compete.

From the Australian Open to the Japan Open, NEC Singles Masters, Doubles Masters, and the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Paralympics, Montjane has played in many tournaments around the world on the Wheelchair Tennis Tour. The Swiss Open is her favourite tournament.

Montjane remains unbeaten on domestic courts for nine years. “It is always a great feeling to remain at the top and witness your hard work pay off,” she says. For Montjane, only hard work, dedication and passion keep her at the top of her game.

Besides her talent on the courts, Montjane started her own foundation to give back to her former school — the Helen Franz Special School — by providing sports facilities and equipment to help and give hope to people living with disabilities especially in disadvantaged communities.

Montjane also holds a BSc degree in Recreation and Leisure from the University of Venda. The future is bright for Montjane who hopes to venture into more community sport and projects for people living with disabilities. But because she has to earn a living as well, Montjane aspires to become a successful businessperson. She wants to send a message to the world, especially to people living with disabilities, that they can be anything despite their disabilities. — Shaazia Ebrahim

Mahlatse Lornah Magagane (20)

Mahlatse Lornah Magagane (20)

Netball player

Mahlatse Lornah Magagane is an enthusiastic and talented netball player for Sefako Makgatho University’s netball team while completing a degree in BSc physiotherapy. Hailing from Ga-Mamabolo village in Limpopo, the second of four siblings believes sport is part of her makeup. Her family loves sports. Her father was a soccer coach and her mother still plays netball and continues to inspire her to this day.

Playing all kinds of sports growing up, Magagane soon realised excelling in netball was one of her many talents. After completing matric, she decided to pursue playing netball while furthering herself academically, and is close to obtaining her degree in physiotherapy.

Her personal achievements to date include playing for the Limpopo under-21 provincial team in 2016, as well as playing for her university team which took part in the USSA 2017 championship and won first position in the section C division. She’s set her sights on making the national team one day.

Her drive to continue despite the odds stacked against her is testament to how far she has come. After twisting both her ankles in 2016, the young athlete was out of the game for a while. During that experience, she realised the importance of physiotherapy and fell in love with it as a means to help others in sport too.

Apart from becoming a sports physiotherapist and playing netball for her country and internationally, she wants to give back to her people in the villages who are not afforded opportunities to succeed. She wants to leave a legacy that honours her father by opening a sports centre in her village. He has been instrumental in coaching her and encouraging her throughout her career. The centre will concentrate on sports development as well as providing options for people in her village to stay off the streets and build themselves up and fulfil their potential.

She loves to inspire her friends and family and community at large by doing her best. Magagane continues to celebrate her achievements in sport and is growing into the woman she wants to become. She believes her story is still far from over and that she has only begun to scratch the surface of her potential and purpose. For the young Magagane, the best is yet to come. — Leigh Wils

Nompumelelo Ramatsoga (29)

Nompumelelo Ramatsoga (29)

Basketball coach, St Benedict’s College and Business and Community Development associate, Cadre Plan

Nompumelelo Ramatsoga is a former basketball player-turned-coach. Her passion for the game and heart for young people see her as a community development consultant and aspiring sports psychologist who is breaking barriers in the male-dominated arena.

Ramatsoga fell in love with basketball at a young age and has been pursuing it ever since — eventually landing a two-year stint at Ohlone College in California and becoming the coast conference champions between 2007 and 2009. She went on to represent the Limpopo senior women’s team from 2009-2012 and they won the National Championships in 2009 and 2012 and served as runners — up in 2010 and 2011.

She is breaking gender barriers in the world of basketball as the only woman on a Basketball National League (BNL) coaching staff and as the assistant coach for Egoli Magic who won National Championships in 2015 and 2016. Flosh Ngwenya became her head coach at Egoli Magic and entrusted her to be part of his coaching staff. He continues to guide her to this day. Susan De Bruyn introduced her to basketball and her first coaching job. She was the first example of female leadership to coach men’s basketball team and continues to inspire and guide her.

She has won the USSA National Championship as the assistant coach of the Wits Men’s team in 2017 and is the head of basketball and First Team coach at St Benedict’s College. Making a positive impact in the lives of as many young people as possible through coaching basketball as well as through her community work. To date, she is the only woman to coach in the BNL. Inspiring young women to realise that they don’t have to limit themselves in what they do with their lives and that they can do it all and have it all is a message she hopes to echo throughout her days.
She gets great joy from seeing the personal transformation of all the young players that she works with as they mature both in basketball and personally. She believes a successful person is someone who is fulfilling their purpose and someone who is willing to endure the tough times because they believe in what they are doing. Knowing she can to use her work to make a positive impact in the lives of young people while defying social norms is what gets her through those tough times. — Leigh Wils

Tatjana Schoenmaker (20)

Tatjana Schoenmaker (20)


Concerned for her safety around the house pool, the parents of a five-year-old Tatjana Schoenmaker taught their daughter how to handle herself in the water. Three years later she won a 25m butterfly race at a local gala and they instantly knew they had an obligation to help nurture her talent.

“You can’t reach a high level with only a little amount of training,” acknowledges Schoenmaker, who has been working to enhance her swimming ever since. That dedication escalated when she joined TuksSport High School and went from three-odd training sessions a week to eight. “Going to the sports school was the support I needed,” she says. “Especially being away from home. I have a very good relationship with my coach and he has it with all his swimmers. It’s really nice to be able to connect with your coach; if you’re not it feels like you’re never progressing.” That structure of support extended to this year’s Commonwealth Games, where a large South African contingent travelled to Australian Gold Coast to take part. Having the whole team cheering from the side of the pool pushed Schoenmaker to remarkable heights. Three African records tumbled in the competition: all previously belonging to the legendary Penny Heyns.

Schoenmaker set an incredible 2:22.02 in the 200m breaststroke before sealing a time of 1:06.41 in the 100m version — winning gold for both. Remarkably, she joins Natalie Du Toit as the only other South African female swimmer to place first in the games. “Winning the medals and having my parents in the stands was one of my proudest moments,” she says. “I got very emotional with the national anthem. It was just such a proud moment to hear your name said and you’re singing the national anthem with your parents right there with you. That was a big moment for me.”

Thanks to the record times, Schoenmaker has become an instant sensation in a nation that has growing expectations for its athletes and swimmers. While she now has her eyes fixed on finishing a financial sciences degree at Tuks, there’s one particular dream she will fight for in the coming months: “The ultimate goal would be to go race at the next Olympics in 2020. I only have two years to prepare.” — Luke Feltham

Tyler Hollingsworth (28)

Tyler Hollingsworth (28)

Founder, Aspire Atlantic

Tyler Hollingsworth is the co-founder of Aspire Atlantic which serves as an educational consultancy organisation that helps others fulfill their potential. His agency provides sporting academic scholarships and opportunities for young people who want to further themselves abroad.

He believes that South Africa has some of the world’s best and smartest students. “When you are able to make these kids’ dreams a reality and change their lives forever, that is the most gratifying experience imaginable.”
Having grown up in Johannesburg, he was selected to attend football trials at Bolton Wanderers FC in the UK at the age of 16. Despite not being signed, he interacted with elite and professional players who inspired him to pursue a career abroad. After receiving a football scholarship in 2006 to the USA, he completed a BSc Finance degree at Gannon University. With two more years working in Pittsburgh for a national insurance company, he returned to South Africa in 2015 and started Aspire Atlantic agency. Opportunities such as these enabled him to secure a better future and he was determined to give back.

Working alongside inspired colleagues who are passionate and personally invested in each of their students inspires him greatly. He wants to continue to identify problems and create lasting solutions in the improvement of others’ lives. His mother, Debbie Copeman also inspires him. Her tenacity and strength in raising children as a single mother while working on her own dreams helped to shape him as an individual too.

His journey continues to have its highs and lows. He is first to admit that self-confidence is something he continuously works on as he grows as an entrepreneur and leader. He believes that a lack of confidence is one of the biggest killers of ambition in society. Reading books by Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and Gregory David Roberts, setting goals as well as learning to meditate and focus his thoughts helps him to pursue his dreams as he continues to help others.

Hollingsworth notes that lack of education is a key issue which continues to persist to this day. Aspire Atlantic will help people to go beyond their limitations. “The world is a big place with so much potential, why not explore it and use your talents to take you there? Every day we help students pursue those opportunities, and we hope that they will use their newly acquired skills and put them to good use by coming back to South Africa and assist others.” — Leigh Wils