Sfisokuhle Bungane, affectionately known as “Sfiso,” is a young and promising talent at the South African Jockey Academy (SAJA), relentlessly pursuing his dream of becoming a professional jockey.
Outside of the track, Sfiso enjoys an array of hobbies, including soccer, chess, singing, and reading non-fiction. Currently completing his first year at the KZN Academy, Sfiso said that while growing up, his family relied on his grandmother’s pension to make ends meet, and they managed to get by without going to bed hungry. Later, at the age of 13, he moved to live with his mother in Inanda, where it was just the two of them.
His path took an unexpected turn from wanting to be a Cardiologist to finding his passion as a jockey. His mother’s connection to Gold Circle, where she worked part-time, introduced him to the world of horse racing. Colleagues at Gold Circle recognised his potential and recommended he pursue a career as a jockey. Learning about SAJA from a colleague, Sfiso decided to give it a shot, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Completing his apprenticeship training at SAJA has been a transformative experience for Sfiso, who has had to adapt to being away from his family. “You actually get used to not seeing your family,” he said.
One of the major challenges Sfiso has faced is managing his weight, a crucial aspect for jockeys. However, he’s been resilient and determined in facing this challenge. Among his achievements, Sfiso takes pride in being selected at SAJA and receiving a blue cap in a short span of time. “This has proven that when you want something and put your mind to it, you can achieve it. It also shows how much I have improved since starting at the academy,” he reflects.
Looking ahead, Sfiso dreams of becoming a multiple-time Champion Jockey in South Africa and racing in other countries. He believes that confidence, the ability to perform under pressure, effective communication with horses, and unwavering focus are key characteristics of a champion jockey.
Sfiso’s role model is Calvin Habib, and he is passionate about helping those who are less fortunate. He recognises the challenges many youth face today, including limited job opportunities, involvement in substance abuse, and educational obstacles. To aspiring youth, he advises, “Make sure it’s a career you really love and be willing to work hard to achieve your goals.”
Sfiso’s pursuit of his dreams was made possible through the support of the Hollywood Foundation. With his mother’s financial constraints, the foundation granted him a bursary for his first year of training, providing financial relief and making his dream a reality.
“I applied for the bursary as my mom could not pay the fees. At the time, we had not even been able to pay the enrolment fee at SAJA, and I was very worried that I would not be able to continue. I am thankful to them for giving me a chance to pursue my dreams,” Sfiso added.