Africa’s first female professional rugby player

14 August 2023 | ,

Babalwa Latsha made history three years ago when she became the first African woman to play professional rugby. She initially took up the sport out of curiosity, but soon fell in love with it. She has since dedicated her career to shattering preconceptions and paving the road for women’s rugby in Africa.

In the realm of sports, there are individuals who defy societal norms. They challenge stereotypes, and pave the way for others to follow. Babalwa Latsha, a trailblazing athlete from our own backyard, has done precisely that by becoming Africa’s first female professional rugby player. Her remarkable journey from the townships of Khayelitsha to the international rugby arena is a testament to her indomitable spirit, perseverance, and passion for the sport.

Early Life and Rugby Awakening

Born and raised in Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in Cape Town, South Africa, Babalwa Latsha’s upbringing was far from privileged. However, it was within this challenging environment that she discovered her love for rugby. In her teenage years, she joined a local rugby club, a decision that would change her life forever. Despite facing initial skepticism and prejudice due to her gender, Latsha persevered. She was determined to break down barriers and make her mark in the sport.

Rise to Prominence

Babalwa Latsha’s talent and dedication did not go unnoticed. In 2014, she was selected to represent the South African national women’s rugby team, the Springbok Women. Her powerful performances on the field and her unwavering commitment to the game propelled her into the spotlight. This has inspired young girls across the country to embrace rugby and dream big.

Challenges and Triumphs

As Africa’s first professional female rugby player, Latsha has faced numerous challenges throughout her career. She has had to overcome cultural barriers, gender bias, and financial constraints that often hinder the growth of women’s rugby in the region. However, through her determination and resilience, she has emerged as a role model and an advocate for gender equality in sports.

In 2018, Latsha made history once again by signing a professional contract with the Spanish club SD Eibar Femenino. Thus becoming the first African woman to secure a professional rugby contract. Her move to Europe provided her with a platform to showcase her skills on a global stage, while also raising awareness about the immense untapped potential of women’s rugby in Africa.

Inspiring Future Generations

Beyond her accomplishments on the field, Babalwa Latsha is a passionate advocate for youth development and women’s empowerment. She actively engages with communities, schools, and rugby clubs, conducting workshops and training sessions to inspire and encourage young girls to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

Latsha’s impact goes beyond rugby. By defying conventions and shattering stereotypes, she has become a symbol of hope and possibility for women in Africa and around the world. Her journey is a testament to the transformative power of sports! And also the importance of providing equal opportunities to athletes, regardless of their gender.

Harlequins Women

Her recent renewal with English club team Harlequins, is the 28-year-old’s latest attempt to make the difference she wants to see. It was a huge adjustment at first but every day is a learning day. Her debut was against Sale Sharks and now she is going into her second season with the club.

To top of the good news, Aseza Hele has also now been signed to the Harlequins. Another rugby super star and loose forward for the Springboks. She was also announced SA Rugby Women’s Achiever of the Year in 2019! Aseza stated this on receiving a contract with Harlequins: “This is an opportunity that is bigger than rugby, it makes little girls from South Africa not only dream but now we believe.”

Foundations

On and off the pitch, Latsha is a shining example. Babalwa Latsha, a licenced attorney, could have chosen a less strenuous profession than rugby.

Nevertheless, she made rugby her profession of choice and uses her profile to help others in a variety of ways. This includes director of the Menstruation Foundation and an ambassador for the Beast (Mtawarira) Foundation. As well as the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

To be able to use your influence in this manner is so enlightening and motivational. To show little girls that anything is possible and to follow your dreams. It is fantastic to see such big names make such a difference in our communities.

Babalwa Latsha is Unstoppable!

Babalwa Latsha’s rise as Africa’s first female professional rugby player is a testament to her unwavering determination, resilience, and passion for the sport. Through her journey, she has broken barriers, shattered stereotypes, and inspired a new generation of athletes. Latsha’s remarkable achievements on and off the field serve as a reminder that with perseverance and the right support, individuals can overcome any obstacle and leave an indelible mark on the world. As her story continues to unfold, Babalwa Latsha remains a beacon of hope and a trailblazer for women’s rugby in Africa and beyond.

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