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Black child it’s possible”… How often does one get to hear those words? What are the circumstances that come with them? What are the boundaries that come with them? Yes, everything is possible, but within “everything” there are boundaries too surely? 

With all the stereotypes of living conditions and racism subjected to people of colour in Russia, a true son of the soil, Vuyo Zangqa would rise from the adversity it brought, with the liquidation of the Southern Kings, leaving him jobless and forcing him away from the comforts of home again, and straight into a jungle where men like him had previously been warned of setting foot in. A jungle where the elements are as harsh as the animals, thorns and obstacles that reside in it, and yet Zangqa would conquer all and emerge as its king. 

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It has been just over a year since Zangqa found a new home in Russia, having to once again look beyond the borders of his beloved South Africa, -of which he wore its national Sevens jersey with aplomb- to seek new opportunities. Having had an illustrious career with the Blitzboks, which saw him even captain the side at a stage. 

Zangqa then arrived in the unknown which was Zastrava Rugby Club, but would quickly make himself known to his new environment, through leading the club to a couple of important tournament victories and titles. It would then come as no surprise when he would make the step up, and be appointed as the coach of the Russian Sevens team, a feat he recognises the significance of. 

“ I mean, this is huge for me because being in Russia coaching at club level, I never thought I would get the look in at an international stage again. So to be able to be back in Europe this is adding to the “never give up” attitude.” He said.

Having completed a very successful first year with the Zastrava Club, Zangqa makes a surprise confession that the challenge had actually come too soon for him. 

“ This year has taught me a lot about the Russian culture, so having been there so short notice I wasn’t ready for it, but I am grateful to Mr Morozov for the belief he has shown in me”.

The appointment of Zangqa seems to have long been in the pipeline, as he reveals that the powers that be had been monitoring him for a while, before they went in to get their man. 

“ The talks about me taking over the job actually started as far back as after the Club European 7’s Championships. We (Zastrava) won the tournament and the Russian board then wanted me to replace the current coach, but it was a long process”. He recalls. 

Having successfully conquered the club scene, Zangqa acknowledges that the level has now risen. And has expressed the pride he feels at being given this opportunity. 

“This is big. Coaching at any international team is a honour so I could never take it for granted. I am happy to be getting an opportunity like this”. He said with audible excitement. 

Having conquered all that came his way at club level with Zastrava, Zangqa understands that every new job and Level comes with its respective challenges, with the Russian national Sevens job not being any different. He as since outline what he thinks will be facing him head on from day one. 

“First thing will be the young generation getting an opportunity” he said. Zangqa then proceeded to give a huge hint that he was in it for the long haul. 

“The aim is to build a squad for the Olympics in 2028 so meaning we will have to look at all ages and think potentially who will be available” he continued.

Since having to prematurely call time on his own playing career, due to an eye injury he picked up in a car accident in 2009, Zangqa has remained in the game of rugby and continued to be it’s student. He has filled plenty of roles both in youth and senior as well as Sevens and 15’s Rugby. Some of the prominent coaching positions he has held over the years have included being involved in the Blitzboks coaching staff, being assistant coach at the Southern Kings, coaching Germany National Sevens and 15’s side as well as being the assistant and head coach of the Kenyan Sevens side. He then rates where the Russian job compares on that list. 

“Definitely top two, Russia played in the series for many years before they relegated. This is a new era for us to try and build to get in the World Series again.” He said. 

Fortunately enough for Zangqa, due to how the Sevens system works in Russia the members of the current national squad are no strangers to him. 

“I know the players in the current system because in Russia there is a 7’s championship so you get to see players that you play against but also the reserve Team also has players so we have a trial camp to select our final team.” 

At face value, leaving South Africa might have seemed like quite a daunting task, like many an adventure into the unknown. Zangqa, however, was under no illusions as to what the move meant ultimately. 

“As much as it’s a risk, it’s also an opportunity to put food on the table and grow your career. For me having coached outside the country so many times, it was an easy decision once I saw lack of opportunities at home.” He admits.

His departure from South Africa, coincided with the departure of the Southern Kings from the country’s rugby scene. As a staunch Eastern Cape rugby man, who had turned out for both the Border Bulldogs as well as The Eastern Province Elephants/ Kings. So losing both his job and franchise in his home province wouldn’t have left him in a good space. Zangqa then compares his then and now situation. 

“I’m in a far better place.” Zangqa confirms.  

“What happened with the Kings was very unfortunate, especially with almost everyone having families to feed. I just think being in this industry has its risks and we just have to be able to think for the future so that such cases don’t effect us as much.”

A keen engager on Twitter, he doesn’t make his still present soft spot for the Eastern Province Rugby a secret. It was recently rumoured that the Elephants would make a return to the Premier Division of the Currie Cup in the new year, a decision that has since gone against them. Zangqa gives his views on the matter. 

“I’m good with that decision actually. They are where they are, because they don’t have the funding to be able to compete with those kind of teams (Premier Division teams). Seeing them being beaten week in week out isn’t good to see, but hopefully they can start to build serious structures for the future, even if they start targeting young talent”. 

Having had a stint in Europe with Germany giving Zangqa a first taste of being a national team coach abroad, Russian showing faith in him starts to form a bit of a pattern. With all the experience he has garnered over the years, it is beginning to look as if, it is only teams abroad that recognise his ability and show faith in them. He discussed where that could possibly stem from. 

“it’s all got to do with one’s abilities not other factors. I think overseas they have a process that they follow and they also look at your results.” Said Zangqa 

Zangqa, is now concentrating solely on those that do have faith in him, enough to put in black and white. As it stands, that is the Russian Sevens side. He concludes by discussing both his short and long-term objectives 

“Immediate goals is to build a culture that will be our identity then qualify for the World Series then we take from in trying to build a strong team try and qualify for the Olympics” 

Who would have ever thought that a black African, hailing from the city of Mthatha in the heart of the Eastern Cape, would ever be tasked with pumping life into a top national team in Russia? Black child, I guess there are no boundaries to your possibilities afterall. The Grit Sports team would like to wish you all the very best in your new adventure and may it prove to be a prosperous one that opens many more doors for you Mr Zangqa!