In the world of rugby, there are players who overcome immense challenges to achieve their dreams. Thendo Netshidzati, a talented rugby player at the Sharks Academy, is one such individual. Hailing from Centurion in Gauteng, Thendo’s journey is an inspiring tale of determination, supported by his unwavering passion for the sport and the unyielding love of his mother.
Growing up in Centurion, Thendo’s single mother played a vital role in shaping his character and ambition. She not only inspired him but also encouraged him to pursue his dreams as a professional rugby player. Thendo recalls his mother’s unwavering support, stating, “She encouraged me to come down to Durban and follow my dreams of being a professional rugby player and continues to make sure that I have everything I need to make these dreams come true.”
Thendo attended Curro Thatchfield, where his aspirations included becoming a professional rugby player and an architect. However, during his time in Grade 10, his passion for sports and the great outdoors began to take precedence. Enrolling in various sports at school, Thendo discovered his true calling on the rugby field, where he found joy and fulfillment.
With a burning desire to excel in both rugby and academics, Thendo is currently in his second year where he is pursuing a degree in Sport Management while dedicating himself to the Sharks Academy. Acknowledging the challenges of juggling rugby with studies, he notes, “It is a challenge at first to balance the rugby life with studies, but, with time, you get the hang of it and learn the art of managing your time.”
In addition to Thendo Netshidzati’s remarkable journey, it is important to highlight the significant support he received from the Hollywood Foundation. Recognising the financial challenges faced by aspiring athletes, the Hollywood Foundation awarded Thendo a bursary to pursue his studies at the Sharks Academy. Grateful for the support, Thendo expresses his gratitude, stating, “I would like to thank the Hollywood Foundation for believing in me and providing me with the opportunity to pursue my studies. Their support has been invaluable, and I am truly grateful.”
Thendo’s talent and hard work soon bore fruit, as he made the under-21 trials for the Sharks at the age of 19. He also earned the prestigious title of “Man of the Match” five times in a calendar season for Collegians. These accomplishments are a testament to his dedication and commitment to the sport.
When asked about his aspirations, Thendo envisions himself playing professional rugby, either in South Africa or internationally. He draws inspiration from Siya Kolisi and Lukhanyo Am, recognising their remarkable journeys and the impact they have made in the sport.
Throughout Thendo’s journey, several individuals have played pivotal roles in his success. He credits Mr. Steyn as the person who introduced him to rugby and regards Mr. Nel as more than a coach, but as a father figure who helped him reach new heights.
Thendo’s pursuit of excellence has not been without obstacles. As a young talent, he faced difficulties in finding opportunities to showcase his abilities and securing funding for his studies at the Sharks Academy. He acknowledges the importance of support and hopes that more athletes in similar situations can receive the necessary assistance to grow their talent.
Thendo’s story is an inspiration to young athletes striving to achieve their dreams. With a strong sense of discipline, determination, and the ability to dream big, he urges them to persevere, saying, “Just keep on dreaming. If you don’t dream big enough, then you won’t have something to push you to wake up and work for the things that you want.”
Thendo Netshidzati’s journey from Centurion to the rugby field exemplifies the power of passion and perseverance. Driven by his love for the sport, he has overcome challenges, embraced opportunities, and remains determined to make a mark in the rugby world.