Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
WHILE most 19-year-olds are still trying to figure out whether to take a gap year overseas, further their education at university or are simply battling to find a job, Wandile Mjekevu has his future nicely mapped out.
His business card could just as easily read: "Professional rugby player/B Com Law student."
Not bad for a kid a year out of school.
Mjekevu's is not some rags-to-riches story... in fact, he had what he describes as a "comfortable upbringing".
With his father a medical doctor, though now with the department of health in Eastern Cape, and his mother a prosecutor, he was afforded the opportunity of fulfilling his dream of being a professional sportsman.
Growing up in King William's Town, 50km outside East London, he attended Dale Junior and then Selbourne College before a scholarship lured him to Johannesburg and two years at a school that will forever have an influence on his life - King Edward VII School (KES) in Houghton.
In his first year at KES he made the school's first XV.
The next year he would captain the side and was appointed head boy at a school with a proud tradition and more than 1 100 pupils.
Didn't it faze him?
"Naturally it did. My two previous schools were a lot smaller. Going to KES was a completely different experience. To be made head boy was a great honour, but I was nervous as well," Mjekevu explains after a three-hour workout at Johannesburg Stadium with the Lions rugby team.
"It's a very special school. There is a strong camaraderie among pupils and a proud tradition to uphold. The friends you make at KES are friends you make for life."
After representing SA Schools in 2008 and watching his heroes playing rugby on TV, he's now rubbing shoulders with them and taking them on in match situations.
"I grew up admiring guys like Carlos Spencer, Dan Carter and Matt Gitteau and here I am playing with them," he says with youthful enthusiasm.
But surely to go from schools rugby to what is arguably the hardest rugby competition in the world, the Super 14, must have taken some adapting?
"I always knew that one day I would be playing Super 14. I just didn't realise it would happen so soon. It's something I will remember forever."
It's not all plain sailing for the youngster, though. The training, mornings and afternoons, can be physically draining and trying to fit in classes at the University Johannesburg is taxing.
"The guys at res (the university residence where he lives) help me out a lot and the lecturers have been understanding when I've had to go away on tour," says Mjekevu.
But he wouldn't have it any other way.
He explains how he loves the travel, experiencing different cultures, people, ways of life.
Surprisingly neither his parents nor three siblings are much in to sport.
"My parents never really encouraged me in my early rugby career. They gave me the freedom to make my own choices and backed me when I made a decision. My brothers are involved in the banking sector."
Talking to him it's obvious rugby is a game he was born for. His enthusiasm spills over as he describes what he loves about the game.
"It's that moment in the changing room before running out on to the field ... the build-up ... the noise the crowd makes ... the excitement ... playing with your friends.
"When I played my first Super 14 game against the Stormers I couldn't sleep from the Wednesday through to the weekend I was so nervous."
Off the field and away from rugby he enjoys what any other teenager does - movies, a braai, pizza and pasta with friends.
"I'm not in to partying, though," he says.
Does he have a girlfriend?
"No, I'm single."
"Oh, yeah," he says with a laugh.
Touted as a future Springbok by his coach at the Lions and Springbok backline mentor Dick Muir, the tall, lithe Mjekevu is taking it one day at a time on making the national side.
"I have ambitions. I need to develop my game. If I start to think about those things I'll put unnecessary pressure on myself. At the moment I'm concentrating on my role at the Lions and on the upcoming U-20 World Cup in Argentina," he says.