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Excellence through Sport


Our Mission is:

  • To bring students together, and to coordinate their sport experience supporting their holistic development

  • To implement a system for the improvement of sport performance standards.

  • To make a meaningful contribution towards the strategic priorities of the University.

An interview with UWC Sport Director, Mandla Gagayi 

We recently sat down with UWC Sport Director, Mandla Gagayi and asked him about his goals and visions for 2019 and his proudest achievements thus far. 

“The one thing that cannot be denied is that sport is a great nation builder”

Do you have an updated mission statement for UWC Sport?

Happily, we have achieved half of the goals we set in 2015. Out biggest mission right now to to try and run UWC Sport as a business as since we have qualified for Varsity Cup, we need to leverage our success to bring investment into UWC Sport.

Is sport a good investment for companies and if so, then what is on offer?

Sport is a very good investment for companies. For me, the one part that cannot be denied is that sport is a great nation builder. I think that companies need to move away from thinking about the profit they can get out of sport and instead, think about how through sport, they can contribute to nation building. We want to work with companies who want to make a difference and collaborate with them in a way that benefits both.

We are not looking for handouts. We are looking for partnerships because we have so much to offer. I don't believe that anyone should be looking for handouts in this financial climate. At UWC we have 22 000 students and these students are the future employees of all of the companies. These students will be the directors and if a company is looking for good future employees, they should start to invest now with the current generation.

What are your proudest achievements thus far?

That's a very difficult one. There has been so many but I will not single one out. However, I will say that winning all the competitions where we have been dominated by ‘so called’ former white universities is definitely a highlight! These achievements prove that we are doing something right but what pleases me about it is that this is not just about us. UWC is becoming something that other universities can look up to. We are giving them hope that it is actually possible to make it to the top even though you are previously disadvantaged.

You noted that we achieved half of what was in the previous mission statement, what were those?

It was that we must be ranked within the top 6 bracket within South African university sport and that we need to win major competitions. Where we have not moved is financial sustainability, this is one part that I wish we can just focus our energies on and get it right.

If you could give a comment on the importance or significance of UWC Rugby’s participation in the FNB Varsity cup in 2019?

This is really big for us. If you have been following Varsity Cup since its inception, its always been dominated by former white universities and that on its own did not really contribute much to transformation of South African rugby in general. Now, when you get a university like UWC coming in, the that is when we can really talk about transformation of sport and rugby. Plus, having a previously disadvantaged university playing in Varsity Cup will promote Rugby in a big way because our provincial team, the Stormers, will have a bigger pool to recruit from rather than being restricted to other  universities.

With regards to UWC Women’s football, can we begin to consider ourselves as a hub for development and how do we sustain or recruit within this?

I always refer to them as our strategic asset. If you look at what is currently in the international setup, then you will see that we have many player that are in a national team. However, what we need to do going forward is to review how we can best manage and coach this asset. Yes, we develop very good players but we are not winning any major competitions with that team. This means that we have talent but are perhaps not managing it in the right way. Therefore, we need to review our structures and look at how we coach them.

For me it cannot be that we have lost 3 major finals to one university. Every year it’s to one university. It says something about us. Either we are not growing or we are not doing something right in managing that talent. So we need to review our coaching structure and the management of that asset.

Which direction is health and wellness going at UWC sport?

That is one of our priority areas going forward because they gym alone is not enough. We want to have a health and wellness culture at UWC. We have plans to build an outdoor gym, to create health and wellness route around campus where we can build different exercise stations but that needs money. We now just need brave men and women to say ‘I buy into your plan, lets make it happen’. But most importantly, the plan is there.  

Any plans for the next 2 -3 years?

Let me start with Rugby. We have to be in Varsity cup for two years before we can be relegated.

So the plan for Rugby next year is that we must play and learn to survive in Varsity Cup so that we can compeat the following year.

With regards to UWC Sport however, the plan is to bring in business. We are working to raise funds to resurface our athletics track which is a major expense at 30 million rand. We also plan to build a hockey astro-turf as our hockey team is growing very fast. They just won their league and got promoted to the next division but we don't have an astro turf on campus. They have to travel elsewhere to train and we pay to use it so why not build our own? By doing that, we will not only have a good track and astroturf on campus but, we will be able to generate an income.

We also want to build a football astro turf. We’ve learnt very hard this year that the water

restrictions and drought can kill your sport. We want to have a synthetic surface where we know that whether we are in the middle of drought or not, we are still able to compete in sport.

Our biggest goal however is the indoor sports facility. Our netball team is doing very well but we do not have an indoor area for them. The challenge with that is that there is a big difference when you train outdoors and play indoors. The rhythm is not the same and I commend our girls for being able to adapt to those situations. The same thing goes for our Basketball team. We have qualified for next year’s Varsity Basketball but still play outside while the actual competition will be indoors. Our teams are already doing so well and one can only imagine how much more we could achieve if we had these facilities.

If you could do something differently, what would it be?

Personally, it would be the management of our athletes. We launched an academic support programme in June but the need to be part of it is not there yet. I think that it might be because student who are referred to the programme may think that they are slow students but that is not the case. We understand that our athletes need to balance academics and sport and through this, we want to them to know that after travelling for weeks for various competitions, they need to join the catch-up programme as they cannot rely on lectures alone. If I were to change this, I would make academic support compulsory to all high performing athletes. This programme will soon become compulsory but we will phase it out in 2019 with the 1st years and attach our bursary programme to it.  

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