From Khayelitsha to African trendsetter

Springbok Women's prop Babalwa Latsha has made it her purpose to inspire and motivate the youth.

The 26-year-old is spreading the message that they can achieve anything they put their minds to thanks to her journey from Khayelitsha to being the first contracted 15s women's rugby player in Africa.

Latsha, who is a qualified lawyer, burst onto the international rugby scene in 2018, making her Springbok Women’s debut on the team’s European tour – where she captained the side against Spain – and representing the Springbok Women’s Sevens team in the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco.

She went on to captain the Springbok Women’s team to a comprehensive tournament victory in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup in 2019 – which served as the 2021 World Cup qualifier – and in their local Test matches against Spain and Scotland.

Latsha attracted interest from Spanish Club SD Eibar, and earlier this year she made history by becoming the first professional South African women’s 15s rugby player.

'I’m living evidence that nothing is impossible and that your surroundings should not limit the size of your dreams,' says Latsha.

'Rugby has given me a voice, the courage to question certain norms and allowed me to impact the lives of young boys and girls positively.

'I have also honed leadership skills and learned perseverance, dedication and diligence.

'More importantly, I have learned to be selfless in everything I do, putting aside personal gain and focusing on the betterment of others through rugby.'

Latsha was only exposed to rugby at university level, but her passion for the game and professional approach to her training has seen her establish herself as one of the top players in the country.

'My community [Khayelitsha] is a vibrant soccer community,' she says. 'However, rugby has slowly gained some interest over time, as there is now a women's club based in my community.

'But my first-ever encounter with rugby came briefly through the Vuka development programme run by the SA Rugby Legends Association.

'I took up the sport seriously that same year in my first year of studying at the University of the Western Cape.'

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Like many of her teammates, Latsha’s rugby journey has had its obstacles.

'The biggest challenge for me is the perceptions that society has about women who play rugby,' she says. 'I have had to overcome negative comments because of my muscular build and because I play rugby.

'Women's rugby is not as popular as the men’s game and this requires me to work tremendously hard to prove myself and my worth.'

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Latsha is eager to add to her list of achievements.

'The most imminent goal is to compete in the World Cup next year,' she says. 'And secondly, I would like to continue plying my trade abroad and opening up doors for many others.

'I would also like to continue to work towards becoming a key figure in rugby in Africa and the world, and ultimately make a significant contribution to the development of women's rugby globally.'

– Latsha the last of the 10 Springbok Women’s ‘Unstoppables’. The ‘Unstoppables’ is the second phase of World Rugby’s ‘Try and Stop Us’ women’s rugby campaign.