Written by David Jenkins
What does it mean to be an Ikey Tiger? It’s a question we often ask ourselves in the changing room after a slow practice or before an important game, as it tends to evoke that powerful aspirational sense of fearlessness and pride that can only come from being part of something much bigger than oneself.
Naturally, there are a number of superlatives that come to mind when looking to encompass the essence and spirit of the special breed of men whose blood runs white and blue. Handsome, charming, witty all came into the fray, of course, as we debated this question at the beginning of the season. One value, however, that we identified as being especially proud of as a Club in 2018 is the sense of shared responsibility amongst our players to spread the game of rugby and the lessons it brings to all corners of the Western Cape.
It is in this endeavour that the Club has recently partnered with the VUSA Rugby Academy to launch the VUSA-Ikeys Rugby Programme for young up and coming rugby players in the Langa community. Meaning “to wake up” or “lift up spiritually” in isiXhosa, VUSA offers a structured program designed to restore dignity, build self-esteem, and develop the rugby and academic skills of disadvantaged children across the Western Cape.
Spearheading the initiative with the VUSA team is Ikey Old boy, Keagan Timm who has been integral in building a stronger sense of social responsibility within the Club. The Ikeys-VUSA partnership officially launched on Saturday 17 March 2018 with an introductory coaching clinic, hosted at the Lutgensvale Sports Fields in Rondebosch. A group of Ikey players joined the VUSA coaching team to run introductory passing, catching, safe tackling, rucking and securing, and running drills with over 200 learners from the Langa community. Passionate Ikey Tiger and inspiring role model, Khwezi Phuza also shared a short story about his journey and his experience of playing rugby at UCT, inspiring learners to consider the positive influence that rugby can have on themselves, their friends and their community.
Following a successful launch, the partnership is expected to grow from strength to strength as Ikey players offer coaching and academic support to the learners throughout the year, and assume mentorship roles for the learners as they progress through the VUSA programme. UCT RFC Director of Rugby, Jonathan Biderman-Pam explains that “the Ikeys-VUSA partnership is built on the shared belief that rugby has the ability to uplift and empower individuals and their communities”. He adds “the objective of the partnership is not only to provide support on the field, but also in the classroom – so that we see more learners from rural communities have the opportunity to play rugby at a university, provincial and even national level in the future.”
As a Club, our philosophy has always been to not only nurture great rugby players, but more importantly to nurture great human beings. It is as we see partnerships such as this one, born as an initiative led by the players themselves, that we are reassured of the Club’s vision and direction, and feel pride in the values that it upholds.
We take our hats off to the VUSA management team, coaching team and staff for the inspirational work that they are doing in the Langa community. The Ikey Tigers are incredibly proud to be a support partner of this incredible initiative.