What do you do when there is no training equipment at home during lockdown? You improvise – something Springbok Women’s centre Aphiwe Ngwevu is particularly good at.
Such is her determination to keep fit, the hard-running midfielder made her own skipping rope from grass and has been using small rocks and full water bottles for weight training in the rural Eastern Cape village of Cofimvaba.
With the 2021 Rugby World Cup set to be hosted in New Zealand next season, Ngwevu is taking her training seriously and she says she will continue doing whatever she can to stake a claim for a spot in international spectacle.
“I really miss being on field and playing rugby,” said Ngwevu, who was with her parents in the rural Eastern Cape when the lockdown was announced, and she knew she had to come up with her own plans to keep fit as she was too far away to have anything sent to her at the last minute.
“I am in a rural village at the moment, and while I have a fair bit of space to train and run at my parents’ house, I am keeping as fit as possible.
“I made a skipping rope using grass, which was quite tough. I basically took long grass and platted it really tightly, and it has been working very well. The key is to tie the grass together as tightly as possible so that it stays intact.
“I have also been using small rocks and two-litre water bottles as weights, so I am trying to improvise where possible.
“Obviously it is vastly different to training in the gym, but my main goal is to remain fit enough so that I can ease back into full-out training when the season resumes.”
In between training and spending time with her family, the player has another significant matter on her mind; her wedding which is scheduled for December.
To Ngwevu’s surprise she emerged from the Springbok Women’s post-match huddle after their final match of the season last year against Scotland in Cape Town to find her boyfriend, Lukholo, down on one knee on the field – and while the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet affected their wedding planning, she says it is a waiting game to see how things play out in the next few months.
“Luckily our plan from the outset was to tie the knot this December, so everything is still on track,” she said.
“I am still planning a few things for the big day, but obviously we will have to wait and see if all goes according to plan as the lockdown levels ease. If we can’t get married in December we may have to wait until after the World Cup, but fortunately there is no rush.”
Reflecting on her career, Ngwevu, who made her debut Test debut in the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup in 2019, which doubled up the 2021 Rugby World Cup Qualifier, said she has been relishing her time in the national set-up and she hoped that it was the beginning of a rewarding rugby career.
“I have really been enjoying my rugby and being part of the Springbok Women’s team,” said Ngwevu.
“I toured England with the SA Select team in 2017 and then travelled to Europe with the Springbok Women in 2018, but unfortunately I injured my arm in the first match against the UK Armed Forces in London, so I didn’t get the opportunity to make my Test debut that season.
“It did, however, happen in 2019 and it was very special, so I hope I can do enough to make the World Cup squad and hopefully be part of the Bok Women’s family for many years to come.”
Ngwevu said the first thing she planned to do post lockdown was arrange a proper birthday celebration after turning 22 on 14 May.
“I had a small lockdown birthday celebration with my family last week,” she said. “But I would really like to get together with friends and a few team-mates that live close by to celebrate the occasion properly after lockdown, so that is one of the first things on my agenda when the restrictions are eased.”