Side-stepping his path to Varsity Cup success

Tapiwa Mafura has been in full flight for NWU in this year's Varsity Cup and is in the reckoning for the Player That Rocks award. Photo: Barco Greeff/Asem Engage

If there is one player who has ticked all the boxes for the NWU in the 2018 Varsity Cup, it has to be the always exciting Tapiwa Mafura, who has been a revelation in the number 15 jersey for this year’s finalists. The Zimbabwean-born Mafura has excelled in the Monday night lights this year, in the wake of dark times with his mother’s current battle with illness. He dedicates every match to her and knows that he also inspires her like she has always inspired him.
‘My mom has not been feeling well this past year and has been in and out of the hospital. It makes me play well when I know that I’m playing for her and that I make her proud when she watches my games on the TV.’

Tapiwe Mafura, kookwater heelagter van die NWU

Tapiwa Mafura.

The determined, optimistic former Hoërskool Ermelo learner is currently leading the stakes to take home the FNB Varsity Cup ‘Player That Rocks’ award for the best player of the tournament and, according to the speedster his consistency, work rate and improved attacking game has contributed to his success.
‘My defence has always been solid and my attack has improved, especially on the counter-attacking side. Whenever teams kick the ball, I feel that I can make an impact with a counter-attacking run.’
The now 22-year-old NWU Varsity Cup fullback, who celebrated his birthday yesterday (11 April), will get the ultimate late birthday present if he can help his side claim their second Varsity Cup in the final against Maties this coming Monday.
‘Even though I’ve played every match this season, I don’t feel like I need rest. I will rest when we have done the job and the Varsity Cup trophy is back in Potch,’ said a focused Mafura.
Zim born, Ermelo raised, Potch made
‘I was born in Hwangwe (near Bulawayo) and my family and I moved to Ermelo in SA when I was in Grade 3. I went to Ermelo Christian School (Gr. 3–7) and Ermelo High School and started playing rugby for the first time in Gr. 8.’
Mafura excelled in schools’ rugby and there he realised his talent and ambition to make it as a rugby player. He played a combination of fly-half, wing and fullback at school but attributes his move to fullback to the former Leopards u.19 coach, Melusi Mthethwa.
Mafura’s big break came under the current Leopards and NWU Varsity Cup coach, Jonathan Mokuena, who included him in the senior Leopards team in 2017.
‘It came as a surprise to me but I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, being the youngest in the team. The team also gelled well, which helped me as a player.’
Committed to consistency
His consistent form and hard-working attitude have translated into a dream season for Mafura, whose calm, relaxed demeanour and his massive smile when scoring tries have caught the attention of the rugby-watching public.
‘Playing Varsity Cup at fullback for the NWU has been such a great experience. I also looked up to former Pukke players, Sylvian Mahuza and Rhyno Smith and now I am in the same position that they were in. My dream would be to play for a Super Rugby team soon,’ says Mafura.
‘I am a rugby player who knows how to adapt well.
I also give my all for the full 80 minutes, I’m always dangerous on attack and have covered on defence at the back.
I enjoy scoring tries and, for some reason, most of my tries this season have been in the corner,’ says Mafura, who rates his try against Maties in Potchefstroom as the best of the season thus far.
Now, the speedy fullback and team player has another chance to get his name on the score sheet against Maties in the final in Stellenbosch this Monday. He would like nothing better than to cap off his Varsity Cup journey with the trophy in his hands.

Tapiwe Mafura op die aanval teen UJ. Foto: Johann du Toit/Picture Café

Tapiwa Mafura

Mafura off the pitch
Studying: BA Labour Relations (3rd Year)
Favourite Music: ‘Chris Brown and hip-hop. Before games days, I would listen to hardcore rap like Migos and Young Thug. I am a happy guy so I like to dance and move to the music and that’s how I focus.’
Favourite movies: ‘I like Kevin Hart’s movies and I would watch some action stuff, too.’
Holiday spot: Cape Town
Best piece of advice you have received: ‘Be consistent in everything you do, whether it be studies, rugby or friendship.’


Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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