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Bongi Msomi Is No Longer On The Sidelines




The South African netball team led by Bongi Msomi is working towards becoming one of the world’s best.

National team captain Bongi Msomi has become a great ambassador for South African netball as she continues to make waves ahead of the World Cup in England later this year, becoming a role model in a sport that has wide participation among women in the country.

Msomi took up netball late, and quite by chance, but has risen to become a top international player, having turned her passion for the sport into a career.

She has played professionally in England and Australia, and has been part of the senior national team set-up since 2011, becoming a key cog in their rise to number five in the world rankings.

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It has been a meteoric rise and an unexpected one at that, but Msomi is proud of her achievements, and feels there is more to come.

“I only started playing netball in Grade 11 when I was 16 years old and it all happened by accident,” Msomi tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA from her base in England, where she currently plays for Wasps.

“I was at Luthayi High School [in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal] and went to watch one of the training sessions as some of the girls from my township played in the team. I had no interest in netball at all though.

“But that day, there were only 13 players at training and the coach wanted to play a match, which you need 14 players for [seven per side]. So they asked if I would fill in and that is where it started for me, I was hooked. It was all by accident really!

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“I owe a lot to my school coach [Sthembiso Mncwabe] as he put a lot of time into helping me with my skills. Because I started so late there was a lot of work needed.”

Msomi quickly rose to prominence with her athletic ability and skill, and within a few years had made the South African Under-19 side, and then the Under-21s, and her leadership qualities, meaning she captained the latter side at the World Youth Championships in the Cook Islands in 2009.

It took her a little longer for senior team recognition though, as she attended a number of camps without being selected, until she made her bow at the 2011 World Cup in Singapore.

“I haven’t looked back since then,” Msomi says. “I have been a regular in the national team, was the vice-captain for a while and am now the captain, which is obviously a very proud moment for my family and I.

It has been a long journey, an interesting one, but it has opened so many doors for me and for that, I will always be grateful.

Msomi is currently in her third season in England, having turned out for Surrey Storm and now Wasps, winning championships with each, and with a spell at Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia as well.

“Playing professionally has been amazing, being able to turn this passion into a paid job is just unbelievable,” she says.

“There are now eight of us in the national team that are playing professionally overseas and that certainly makes us a stronger team.

“But it also shows me that we do have a long way to go in South Africa, when you see how professional players train, eat and look after themselves. That should be our goal and we are moving in that direction.”

The Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League is a provincial competition in South Africa that has been played since 2014, and is slowly helping to improve the standard, according to Msomi.

“It exposes players to be seen and is an amazing set-up, but it could still improve further in terms of being more competitive and preparing players for the international stage.

“We know as a country, we can play netball, we have proven that, but the step up to the level of the top teams in the world is huge. When you see how top players train on and off the court, then you realize what it takes to get to the very top.”

Msomi will be a star player when South Africa compete at the World Cup from July 12 to 21.

Australia head the world rankings, followed by New Zealand, Jamaica and England, and Msomi says finishing in the top four positions at the tournament should be the goal of the side.

“Every country wants to win a medal and that would be amazing, but my honest wish for us, looking at where we have come from, would be to look at finishing in the top four first.

“We have shown the world in the recent quadrangular series that we can push the top teams hard. We beat England and only lost to New Zealand in extra-time when we really should have won.

“Once you make the semi-finals, anything can happen in professional sport. It all comes down to how the two teams perform on the day. After that, who knows, anything is possible,” Msomi says.

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Netball SA CEO Blanche De La Guerre has watched the development of Msomi through the years and believes she is an outstanding ambassador for the sport in the country.

“From a shy, quiet young player, she has absolutely blossomed into this confident and opinionated player. It has been wonderful to see!” De La Guerre tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

“Bongi is such a good example of somebody who has succeeded despite the odds being stacked against her. She never made excuses along the way, and always put in the hard work necessary to get to the top.

“Through tough times, she could have blamed the fact that she had started late in the game, that she had no takkies [sports shoes] or kit, no gym to go to, but she never did that. She just made sure she worked harder than everybody else.

“She is an example to every little girl out there that you can make things happen for yourself if you put in the hard work. That you can become a national captain and play overseas.”

De La Guerre has praised the leadership of Msomi and the work that she does away from the court.

“She has excellent leadership qualities and delivers a powerful message. She also leads by example, which I think is one of her best qualities. She spends a lot of time doing development work when she is back in South Africa, inspiring young girls to take up the sport.”

-Nick Said

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John Smit leaves everything on the field




A game does not end when the final whistle blows. Its impact reverberates throughout a community when the stadiums are empty. Former rugby captain John Smit, in his role as CEO of a security company, has ensured that the tournaments are alive and kicking.

As captain of the World Cup-winning Springboks in 2007, John Smit was, “Mr Right Place, Right Time”. He was the centerpiece that connected management to the players and the players to the fans.

His talents have evolved into the commercial sphere, where he now sits and curates a partnership that could save rugby and have a much more meaningful impact on the communities whose lives revolve around club rugby.

Security and maintenance company SSG Group – for which Smit is acting CEO – were, in March, named co-sponsors for the Gold Cup, a rugby tournament steeped in the blood and sweat of community involvement.

“A lot of our clientele are the mines in the North West and Limpopo area,” Smit says.

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“Those communities are massively passionate about the game and we wanted to show that this company not only wanted to leave a footprint within the community using SMEs but also, we wanted to help keep a tournament alive that is quite important to a lot of them.

“It was really just to show our gratitude for the community that we were allowed to work within. I met the Rustenburg Impala Rugby Club guys a few weeks ago and rugby is really important around that mining area.

“It’s a massive part of their culture and their working environment. When this thing happened, Jorge Ferreira (SSG Group CEO) called me to get my thoughts on what this sponsorship would entail. I said to him it’s an unbelievable partnership because everyone wants to go straight to the top but this is where the real rugby starts and ends.”

Fans pack the creaky stands, making a ruckus and cheering uninhibitedly for their sons, fathers and uncles as they put their bodies through the dirt for the sheer pleasure of it.

In most communities where club rugby is played, it’s the only recreational outlet with the gravitas that pulls 12,000 people to a game, like last year’s Pirates Grand Challenge Final between Villagers Worcester and Roses United in Worcester last year.

Put into perspective, 14,000 people watched the Stormers play the Lions at Newlands in February. Goliath-eque franchise budgets were brought to size by passionate, ordinary folk.

“There was a guy that came to one of the games on horseback. There were so many people at the game that he could not see, so he watched the game on his horse to get a view,” Smit says.

You can only get that at Gold Cup games. It’s something magically unique. These people play for free, they play for the community and they play for each other.

“The games are well-supported because the communities have a vested interest in the game – their husbands, uncles, brothers, friends, cousins, employees or employers are participating in them. Everyone comes.”

The Gold Cup portfolio landed on Smit’s desk by chance. One might say there was some alchemy involved. Ferriera’s untimely death, last year, meant Smit was redeployed from shareholding company Richmark Holdings to hold the SSG fort.

When he got to Ferreira’s seat, he saw the founder’s plans for the partnership with SA Rugby were complete. The baby was in the right hands. Smit wasted precious little time and stamped the deal.

In a time of austerity, load-shedding and budget cuts, Smit saw the forest for the trees.

“I can’t take credit for that because it was the brainchild of our previous CEO,” he says.

“I am delighted that I am a part of this and that things have worked out in such a way that made it possible. This was pioneered by Jorge Ferreira and supported by two other companies (Blu Approved and M4Jam) who made it possible.

“The unique positioning, the timing of my transition into SSG, I don’t think there would have been anyone else who understood what the Gold Cup means to this country and the communities that hold it dear.

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“It’s hard to quantify that commercially because it is more of an emotive vibe. These communities have passionate people who stick with the game after school. They are the backbone because they are not playing for money.”

Indeed, if it isn’t a man atop his steed looking for a glimpse of the action, it’s a “tannie” (older woman) selling boerewors rolls on the grass bank. It’s kids running freely along the touchline, collecting balls that have been kicked too long and returning them to their hometown heroes.

It’s a second and third chance at the game for players who’ve been hooved by professional rugby’s cut-throat contracting system – such as MB Lusaseni, College Rovers captain and former Lions lock. It’s a combination of all these factors that make a mineworker spend his or her free time in the hot sun, absorbing the Gold Cup.

-Sibusiso Mjikeliso

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Brand Voice

HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E



Brought to you by Hugo Boss

HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.

Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.

HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.

In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.

Alejandro Agag (Formula E CEO) and Mark Langer (HUGO BOSS CEO)

Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.

“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.

The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.

The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.

Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.

Porsche x BOSS: introducing a new collaboration | BOSS

Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.

“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.

Hugo Boss x Porsche  

Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.

“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”

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For Xolani Luvuno Its Mind Over Matter




A story of hopelessness, drugs and crime and an athlete who conquered land and sea, on crutches. 

Xolani Luvuno will enter this year’s prestigious New York City Marathon flying the flag of South Africa, but this is no ordinary athlete; he will complete the run on crutches.

Luvuno’s story is one of hopelessness, drugs and crime, but then a life turned around in the most remarkable fashion as he became an ambassador for good; taking on, and defeating, some of the most grueling athletic pursuits on the planet. All with one leg.

Luvuno continues to defy the odds and, ahead of his journey to New York, will also compete in a full IRONMAN African Championship event, in April, which includes a 3.8km swim, a 90km bicycle ride and a 42.2km run.

That would present the mightiest of challenges for an able-bodied athlete, but Luvuno must do all of that having had his right leg amputated 11 years ago, after he developed cancer in the bone.

Xolani Luvuno’s right leg was amputated 11 years ago, after he developed cancer in the bone. Picture: Supplied

The 34-year-old has already proven his superhuman mental and physical strength after completing the 89km Comrades Marathon on crutches last year, and followed that up by completing a half IRONMAN event in East London in South Africa earlier this year.

“I started running as a distraction from the substance abuse that had gripped me earlier in my life; it focused my mind in other areas and gave me a purpose,” Luvuno tells FORBES AFRICA.

“The events are one part of it, but the training is what helped me the most. In the townships, a lot of the drinking and alcohol abuse happens over the weekend, and that is when I would go running. I would head out with my crutches in the morning, and by the time I had finished, I would just crash at home and sleep the rest of the day.

“It provided me with a new interest away from drugs and alcohol and motivated me to do something with my life. I really needed a change at the time, and running provided me with that.”

Luvuno’s teenage years were difficult. Falling into the grip of substance abuse, he ended up living under a bridge in Pretoria and spent five years in jail, having been convicted of housebreaking.

Xolani Luvuno and Hein Venter at Comrades finish. Picture: Supplied

He would beg, steal and borrow to fuel his drug habit, before his life was turned around by a chance meeting with Hein Venter, at a traffic light in 2016, who took pity on Luvuno.

Venter gave him a job in his perfume factory and it was from there that his running career was born.

“I could see his potential and I wanted him to meet new people, away from his old life. Good people, normal people who he could use as role models,” Venter says.

“We created a running club within the company and, literally overnight, two-thirds of the employees took up running. It was amazing! Xolani had his challenges, but he didn’t want to miss out and started to go out with them too.”

Venter arranged formal accommodation for Luvuno in Mamelodi and had a prosthetic leg made.

He was later sponsored with a running blade, an attachment for his leg that should have enabled him to compete with able-bodied athletes. But, as a result of the long-distances involved in marathon running, he began to develop sores and returned to running with crutches.

But his progress was incredible, and within 18 months, he was lining up in one of the world’s most famous road races, the Comrades Marathon, albeit five hours before the scheduled start of the race, completing the event in 15 hours and 50 minutes.

“I always finish a race, no matter how long it takes me, I will never quit,” Luvuno says. “I always want to push myself further, to break down new barriers. After I completed the Comrades, I needed a new challenge.

“That is when I turned to IRONMAN, though cycling and swimming were completely new to me. But after four or five months of intense training, of really hard work, I was ready.

“Now I want to complete a full IRONMAN in April, that is my next challenge, and after that, it is the New York [City] Marathon. My entry for that has been accepted, it will be an amazing experience.”

Xolani Luvuno giving motivational talks. Picture: Supplied

Luvuno’s story is an incredible tale of triumph over adversity and how, even in the depths of despair, there is always the opportunity to change the situation. He is now also a motivational speaker, mostly sharing his story with school children, many of them handicapped themselves.

“It is something I have a passion for, it allows me to give something back,” he says.

“There was a time when I was not society’s ally and I accept that, but that is in the past now and I can only look forward to the future. Maybe my story will help some youngsters gain perspective and take on the valuable lessons that I have learned.”

-Nick Said

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