Sep 29, 2020

Babalwa Latsha, the first African women’s player to go professional

Springbok Women’s captain Babalwa Latsha, who hails from Khayelitsha in Cape Town,  made history when she became the first African women’s rugby player to turn professional in January 2020.

Awarded South Africa Rugby Women’s Top Achiever in 2017, the prop has captained her country since 2019.

In 2020, after becoming the first African women’s rugby player to turn professional upon joining Spain’s Eibar Rugby Taldea in January, Latsha would go on to score 13 tries in seven games for her new team – receiving a renewed contract in the process. Besides her love for rugby, this remarkable young lady also graduated with a law degree from the University of the Western Cape in 2018.

Shana Devitt from Pegasus Publishing chatted to Babalwa about her rugby journey, and her hopes and dreams for the growth and development of the women’s game in South Africa.

FUN FACTS:

High school/Varsity attended: Recently graduated with a law degree from the University of the Western Cape
Family: Mom, Dad and one sister
Mentors: Lwazi Mzozoyana
Hobbies and Interests: Reading, coaching rugby, radio presenting and writing opinion pieces.
Favourite holiday destination: Egypt 
Favourite meal: uMphokoqo
Quote that you try to live by: Be true to yourself. Always. 

1.  When and how did your love and passion for rugby begin Babalwa?

I first came across the sport with VUKA program run by the Rugby Legends in 2014. I fell in love with the sport when I got to University in the same year. I took it up quite seriously and never looked back.

2.  You’ve had an extraordinary rugby career through the years – can you highlight which is the most memorable one for you?

I’ve had an exceptional career thus far. I’m very grateful to the people who helped me along the way. I have so many highlights but the most memorable is when I played sevens rugby at the 7s World Cup in 2018 which was held in San Francisco.

3.  Tell us what goes through your mind as a player during a very close and tense match?

The key thing for me is to keep composure and ensure that my team keeps composed too, because sometimes the pressure can be so much that we make mistakes that can be quite costly in the game. So, in my mind I always try to focus on the basics and composure.

4.  How have you managed to stay fit during this challenging Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown?

I’ve training throughout the lockdown. Our national team has been issued with a detailed program which I have been following and adding my own flavour to. It hasn’t been easy in all honesty, but I love what I do and im fully aware as to why I do it.

5.  Congratulations Babalwa on qualifying for the World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year. As the Captain, how have you managed to keep our team motivated, especially during this year we have had?

We communicate regularly and encourage one another to keep working hard and remain focused on the task at hand. We’re heading to the biggest competition of all rugby competitions. Our team understands that and what the qualification meant for us and women’s rugby. We therefore cannot drop the ball.

6.  What advice do you have for young and upcoming female rugby players who want to follow a career in rugby?

I’d definitely encourage any young female to take part in the sport. Rugby is one of the most liberating and empowering sports. Rugby broadens ones horizons and opens up so many opportunities. Today, I am a holder of a law degree, a Springbok Women’s Captain and the first pro women’s rugby player in the whole of Africa, all while playing rugby. Rugby can change lives for the better. I am living testament to that.

7.  Do you follow Pegasus Publishing on their social media platforms and if so, what do you find sets us apart from all the others?

Pegasus Publishing provides a great platform for young rugby players and current news on the sport. It’s a great platform that shines the light on great talent.

SPORTING ACHIEVEMENTS:

2019
First South African Pro women’s rugby player.

Captained Springbok Women to World Cup qualification.
Captain of Western Province Senior Women (3 x Inter-Provincial Championships)

2018
South African Students 7’s
Springbok Women 7s
Sevens Rugby World Cup player in San Francisco
Springbok Women 15s Vice-Captain – European Test matches
Western Province Senior Women 15s captain
University of the Western Cape Sportswoman of the Year
University of the Western Cape Achiever of the Year

2017
Western Province Senior Women’s Rugby V/C
Call-up to Senior Women’s Springboks for UK Tour in October
South African Rugby Union Women’s Achiever of the Year

2016
Western Province Senior Women’s Rugby
SARU Conditioning and testing call-up
Western Province Senior Women’s Player of the Year Award
South African Students 7s

2015

South African Students 7s
Debut season for Western Province Women’s Rugby

2014
South African Students 7s

Western Province Athletics: Javelin throw

2009-2013
Represented Western Province juniors athletics