Written by on 26 June, 2024

Leading a life as Springbok women’s rugby player and firefighter, Zinhle Ndawonde has lifted the lid on how she juggles life in her two respective fields and discipline being key to her success.

Thirty-one-year-old Zinhle hails from Inanda township and has since overcome major obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the game. She inspires many every day with her determination and drive to not let her circumstances define her, and despite her humble beginnings holds her community in high esteem for their unity and how they looked out for their own.

Zinhle’s sports, from first discovering soccer to later playing rugby, was a welcome distraction from the drug abuse and other bad elements that were prevalent in her neighbourhood.

When asked about her journey in rugby, she said;

I started playing rugby in high school at age 16. I initially wanted to play soccer, but when I found out that my school didn’t have female soccer, I then chose to play touch rugby. I didn’t want to play netball or hockey, I just didn’t see myself fitting into those sports. I grew up watching rugby and even though it seemed dangerous, I challenged myself to try it.

Zinhle shares to the Insider, that being part of the Springbok women’s team is a true honour and blessing for her as she’d always wanted to represent her country.

We seized the opportunity to ask SA’s vice-captain a few questions in keeping with our ethos.


Image: Supplied

One of the most important things rugby has taught me as a young girl was discipline. I grew up in Inanda township, KwaZulu-Natal, where there was a lot of pregnancy and drug abuse. Playing rugby in my teens distracted me from a lot of things and taught me to stay focused on my goals and what I wanted in life. It has taught me to be strong and to be unapologetic about my capabilities as a woman, Zinhle shares with Sowetan Magazine.

It was very difficult of course because rugby is a male dominant sport, and the women’s rugby teams don’t really get that much support or exposure. So, I had to break the barriers and those stereotypes to be noticed, promote women’s rugby, tell people out there who was, what I do and why I’m doing it. To give a solid foundation and touch the lives of young women in township who have given up on hope to be anything in life because of their circumstances at home.

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