Johannesburg - The winds of change that former UK prime minister Harold Macmillan predicted in a speech in Cape Town on February 3, 1960 seem to be finally sweeping through our rugby landscape.
The latest positive news is that Tshepiso Phosa last week took her seat on the board of the Mpumalanga-based Pumas Rugby Union.
The 25-year-old daughter of ANC stalwart Mathews Phosa joined the 10-member board of the union that was formed in 1969.
Phosa’s new role in the sport is not just a victory for transformation, but a significant milestone for women and youth empowerment.
Prior to her appointment, the all-male board was made up of president Hein Mentz, his deputy Apie Human, chairperson Kenny Sonnekus, Mike Naude, Elmon Thela, Ndumiso Zwane, Marius Botha, chief executive Pieter Burger and director of rugby Jimmy Stonehouse.
The Pumas are the sixth board on which Phosa is serving. The others were technology training company Mobigo and four companies her father owns. They represent the fuels, forestry, mining, real estate, and training and technology industries.
Phosa owns the Milviforce Puma N4 Nelspruit fuel station on the N4 highway and has four years of experience in the petroleum industry.
Over the past two years, Phosa has been involved in getting sponsorships for the Pumas rugby team and for individual players. This included getting some of the players involved in corporate initiatives such as setting up a library for the Woodhouse Care Centre, an orphanage in Mataffin, Mbombela, and planting trees in the Lowveld to offset carbon emissions.
Transformation in rugby has been in the news in recent weeks after 26-year-old Stormers captain Siya Kolisi was announced as Springbok captain.
That came soon after former Springbok winger Ashwin Willemse left during a live broadcast at SuperSport. He accused co-presenters Naas Botha and Nick Mallett of undermining him, and this fuelled renewed talk of racism in rugby.
Just when the sport needed some more good news, the Mpumalanga Rugby Union invited Phosa to serve on its board. Last Tuesday, it became official. Burger said they are “extremely excited about the expansion of the board”.
“Tshepiso is not only a prominent business-person in the province, but also a dynamic, youthful and energetic individual.
“We are very thankful and fortunate for her acceptance of the opportunity to become an integral part of rugby in the province.
“Together, the board aims to use the sporting code to facilitate social and economic growth of our beautiful capital city Mbombela,” Burger said.
A philanthropist at heart, Phosa adopted the Woodhouse centre in 2015. It is home to 169 children, and she provides them with food and entertainment. Every week, she gives food parcels to another local orphanage, Kungumusa. She is involved in a volunteer programme to help 29 matrics at the Curro Meridian School learn skills to prepare them for life after high school. Phosa is also a patron of Pro Gratia school for children with special needs, located near Mbombela. She helps the school through sponsorships and has an adopted son there.
She recently signed a contract with Mrs Mpumalanga to help the finalists of this beauty pageant get sponsorships.
“It is vital for women to support each other and defines beauty as a category that not only encompasses how you look to others, but the beauty inside each individual,” she said.
She intends to help the contestants learn business skills because “beautiful women are entitled to be good businesswomen too”.
Phosa’s motto is “to be the difference you want to see”.
She walks her talk with her dedication to her community and the industries she works in.
“I am looking forward to learning a lot from the rugby fraternity and to using my skills to enhance rugby in Mpumalanga,” she said.