Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
14 Mar 2021
10:02 am

From canoeist to rugby star: Sango Xamlashe’s journey

Wesley Botton

Xamlashe was selected for the Junior Springboks and won the national U-21 title with the Blue Bulls.

Sango Xamlashe in action for the Blue Bulls. Picture: Gallo Images

Built like a small truck, Sango Xamlashe’s size proved detrimental to his success in the first of his chosen sports, but canoeing’s loss was rugby’s gain.

Born in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, Xamlashe hoped to find some success in a kayak, showing some real potential as a sprint canoeist.

But his natural build (he currently weighs in at 95kg) ultimately ended his hopes in the boat.

“Unfortunately I literally outgrew the sport,” Xamlashe told TuksSport this week.

“I got too big to fit in a sprint canoe.”

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Eager to remain competitive, however, Xamlashe stepped out of his kayak and hit the rugby field.

Attending Selborne College in East London, he soon displayed his full potential with ball in hand and he was selected for the Junior Springboks in 2018.

The following year he played a key role for the Blue Bulls U-21 team that won the national age group title.

And while the Covid-19 pandemic stunted his early progress, Xamlashe tried to take some positives out of the situation.

“The one good thing about the lockdown was that it gave me time to reflect about the way rugby is changing and how you, as a player, must evolve to adapt to it,” he said.

“None of us can ever afford to rest on our laurels. There is always something to improve on.”

Sango Xamlashe

Xamlashe will captain the Tuks team in this year’s Varsity Cup. Picture: Gallo Images

Back on the field, he now hopes to hit the ground running after being named as captain for the Tuks team in the Varsity Cup series, to be played in a bio-bubble in Pretoria in April and May.

Having made a move last year from the University of the Free State to the University of Pretoria, where he is studing a BCom in financial sciences, Xamlashe is eager to shine in his new role.

“It is nearly a year since we last played,” he said.

“Needless to say we are all dying for an opportunity to be between the four white lines, especially since we don’t know if we will get a chance to play rugby again after the Varsity Cup. We can only hope.”

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Xamlashe, whose younger brother Siba has also flaunted his talent by being selected for the SA Schools team, looks forward to playing in a new position after switching from centre to flyhalf.

“My DNA as a rugby player is that of a flyhalf,” he said.

“I strive towards being tactically astute.”

Aside from his talent, Xamlashe hopes one of his favourite activities will help him lead the Tuks team to victory.

The promising young player, as it turns out, really likes to talk – an attribute which is useful for any skipper.

“I could talk all day, on and off the field,” he said.

“I think communication brings calmness to everyone on the field as they need to know what is happening.

“It is when things become silent that things tend to go wrong.”

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