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    Roji finds his comfort zone at Madibaz ahead of Varsity Shield

    Paradoxically, new recruit S’bulelo Roji has had to move out of his comfort zone to forge a new one with the FNB Madibaz rugby team.

    The burly prop, who tips the scales at 127kg, had no hesitation in accepting head coach David Manuel’s offer to link up with Mandela University this season.

    Manuel has been looking for more bulk up front to cater for the physical demands of the FNB Varsity Shield competition and found just that in the 24-year-old.

    Roji, who is studying towards an advanced diploma in business studies to add to a national diploma in hospitality management, will play in his third Varsity Shield competition.

    His philosophy is to improve by exposing himself to new ideas, which is why the move to the Gqeberha team made sense.

    “If the truth be told, as a person you need to change an environment to achieve an upgrade in your life,” he said.

    “Luckily, I made contact with the head coach and he warmly welcomed me into the fold.”

    Roji was motivated by former Walter Sisulu University teammate Mihlali Mosi who had linked up with the Madibaz before graduating to the Free State provincial team.

    Now he, too, is furthering his rugby education in the diverse setting of the Nelson Mandela Bay side.

    “It’s a very special set-up, with people from places, cultures and backgrounds different to where I come from. For me to be comfortable, I have to be uncomfortable.”

    He acknowledged the role of Manuel, who guided them not only to be better players but better at life itself.

    His previous Varsity Shield experience comes with some painful memories after his erstwhile team finished runners-up to CPUT in 2021 and lost in the semis to Fort Hare the following year.

    The Bhisho native only found rugby as a teenager after initially spending his time on football fields and cricket ovals.

    “There was a year where the youth in my community was so fascinated by the sport of rugby – like it was peer pressure.”

    “We mostly played touch rugby and, although I didn’t have much of a background in the sport, one thing I can say is that this exposure played a big role in bringing me to the sport.”

    He attended various schools but ended up in Alice where he ran out for Phandulwazi Agricultural High School’s second team.

    Roji polished his game in the Sunday Rugby League at the University of Fort Hare and it was not long before getting the nod from the first team.

    “At that stage I knew nothing about Craven Week or Varsity Shield and I just played for the love of the game,” he acknowledged.

    Mentors, such as late coach Sipho Metula who took him under his wing during his first year at WSU, began to emerge and shaped him into the player he is today.

    “He introduced me to a lot of things that involved rugby and the brotherhood of the sport.”

    Roji started out as a loose forward before coach Akhona Mgijima converted him into a tighthead prop in 2021.

    “Since I am a big lad, I always had an edge to be a good ball carrier and I feel that I am fairly quick for my weight.”

    That is a skill he wants to add to the Madibaz’s Varsity Shield cause as he bids to erase those painful moments from his memory.

    They open their campaign against Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town on Friday. Kick-off is at 7pm.

    Main Image: Supplied

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