Ten Questions for “Ten Names”

Athi Gazi, affectionately known as “10 names” sits down with Jamie. Our very own full back is in his penultimate year of BSc Civil Engineering. After matriculating from SACS in 2015, Gazi found himself on The Green Mile. Read more to find out exactly how a casual conversation turned Gazi into an invaluable first team Ikey Tiger!

  1. How old were you when you started playing rugby?
    I started playing rugby at the age of 14 in Grade 8. I started off playing for the U14 C Team but it was just introductory. I honestly really loved soccer but they didn’t offer it at my high school, so I thought I might as well give rugby a shot.
  2. What was your first rugby memory?
    We played Bishops and one of the guys handed me off and we literally got a photo. So my face was all over Bishops Rugby – I kind of unintentionally became the face of Bishops rugby. I was the talk of the town for a bit, it eventually dissipated but that was my first memory of the sport.
  3. What role does your family play in achieving your goals?
    My role models would definitely be my siblings (older brothers and sister). I draw a lot of strength and inspiration from them. They are successful and they inspire me to follow in their footsteps.
  4. Who is your role model and why?
    My other role model would be David Goggins – I can relate to his past; it kind of reminds me of my own. I always just think, if this guy can do it, why can’t I? I am just a drop in the ocean in this world and if he can do it, so can I.
  5. Can you remember your first training session at UCT?
    (Laughing)
    Tom said that I must just come down and watch the training. I wasn’t able to play properly because I was recovering from a injury. Anyway, long story short, the following week I was playing in the internal side (U20 Nadoes). So I guess my first session was more than just watching the other guys, I was thrown straight into the deep end.
  6. Why UCT?
    My sibling all graduated from UCT and are now working. It has always been a family thing, and there was definitely a pressure on me to get into UCT. Initially, I was looking into taking a gap year, but my parents weren’t having any of that. I come from a very academically focused family, both my mom and dad are the first to graduate from university in their linage; so education has always been the most important. I initially didn’t play rugby, but once I started, my dad wasn’t very happy with it. After proving that I could balance rugby and academics, he started to accept it. My family are now completely supportive of my choice to not only focus on academics but also pursue my rugby career.
  7. Describe your perfect weekend
    It would definitely be a Varsity Cup weekend. Friday I finish off my lectures, Saturday we head to the mile for early morning practice, strength and conditioning. On Sunday, I will do a little bit of work and make sure I am all ready for Monday’s match. But mostly, just unwind before the week starts. I just like to relax.
  8. What motivates you to achieve your goals?
    It would definitely be that loyalty won’t save me. If I don’t go do it, no one is going to come save me. My dad always says to me that I mustn’t rely on other people; you have to get what you want on your own. This is the mentality I live by, I am not going to be a student forever, I don’t want to look back when I am 30 and think “what if”. So while I am here, I always just give my absolute best shot.
  9. If you could be in a room with three of your favourite people – who would it be and why?
    David Goggins – as discussed earlier; he is just an absolute legend.
    Damian McKenzie: I respect the work that he does both on and off the field. I would love to meet and chat to him.
    Young Thug: He is an innovator, he is one of a kind. It’s not only what he has contributed to the music scene, but definitely the things he does outside of it. He is simply the first of his kind.
  10. What are your plans for the future?
    First things first is to get my degree done and dusted. But, I definitely want to be in a winning Varsity Cup season as well. Looking at the next eighteen months, I do want to play at the highest level and afterwards see what my qualification can offer me. I just want to test my limits, I want to be put up against the best of the best and see if I am physically and mentally cut out for this. I am not really looking further than that right now, I guess we will just have to see what life has to offer me after that.

Small Town Boy, Big City Dreams! Meet Taariq Kruger

Kruger hails from Kimberley; after matriculating from Durban High School, he moved down to the cape to be an Ikey Tiger! It was a tough decision between Maties and UCT but Jono Field’s influence managed to convince him to join the club. We are glad you are here!

1. How old were you when you started playing rugby?


I was 13 years old when I started playing rugby. I played hockey, cricket and soccer. One day in primary school the rugby coach came up to me and said “you’re quite big for your age” and the next week I joined the rugby team!

2. What was your first rugby memory?

My first rugby memory would be the first time I went to rugby training. My parents fetched me and I said, “I need some sugar in my body”. We stopped at the OK on the way home and I got a bar-one and my parents said “listen, you need to make a decision.” And from then on, I decided that rugby would be my sport!

3. Who is your role model and why?

I don’t think I have a role model, I like to set my own standards. At the end of the day, you set yourself out to be like them but then you fail. So, I rather like to set personal goals and then achieve them.

4. Can you remember your first training session at UCT?

It was the Hermanus Camp, it was quite tough, nothing like school boy rugby. They throw you in the deep end! I had to adapt to this lifestyle; very quickly.  

5. What do you eat before a big match?

It depends where we are playing, if we play at the Green Mile, I have an egg and mayo sandwich, three samoosas and the muffins the club provide. It’s cheap and quality, you know. I’m getting my carbs, protein and even my veggies.

6. Describe your perfect weekend.

My perfect weekend is the Sunday after a tough match on Saturday. My body is usually extremely sore on the Sunday, so I can just sleep and relax the whole day. I also don’t have to do anything around the house because I have a good excuse. It’s weird, I really like the pain, it almost like the fruits of my labour.

7. What’s a typical day of a Varsity Cup rugby player (during season)?

I wake up at 8am, have breakfast and then straight to campus for lectures. I then go back to Res (Kapano) for lunch and to work. At about 4:30pm I start making my way to the Green Mile to warm up and train.

8. What motivates you to achieve your goals?

The fact that I know that I can do something, without being a financial burden to my parents. If I succeed, I have the chance to get a scholarship. I am very independent and I want to take the stress and pressure off of them as well.

9. What’s the next goal in your rugby career?

Short term: Training to make WP U19 team next year.
Long term: I plan on making it, and playing up to the age of 26 so I can enjoy the rest of my life; without too many injuries!

10. What are your hobbies aside from rugby?

Having alone time and chilling by myself or going to the gym. I recently went through a transition with regards to my religion. I never used to take my religion seriously, but now I enjoy praying and actually see it as a hobby; praying five times a day and abiding by the rules of Islam.

We’d Kneel for Niel; Our Very Own Small Town Superstar!

Otto hails from Mossel Bay, a small town up the Garden Route; after graduating from Outeniqua High School in George, Otto went to Durban to play for The Sharks. After three tough years (and a diploma in Sports Management) he made his way to the Mother City to play for the Ikey Tigers.

Jamie catches up with Otto, uncovers what he’s been up to and makes him think about his first training session at UCT. (Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t easy!)

  1. How old were you when you started playing rugby?
    I was actually five when I played my first rugby match, I grew up in a small rural town so there wasn’t enough boys to make up a team; I was in Grade R and they asked me to play for them. Most of my friends were two or three older than me. It’s funny, because I wasn’t even in Grade 1 when I played my first match.
  2. What was your first rugby memory?
    It wasn’t the proper game actually, I used to live in a school’s hostel in primary school; every afternoon we would all play rugby. We didn’t have money for a rugby ball so we used a 2 litre coke bottle and filled it with grass. You can imagine how the Grade 7’s used to treat us Grade 1’s but it was all worth it because I got my turn when I was in Grade 7.
  3. Who is your role model and why?
    I don’t really have a role model in the general sense, but in the rugby and sporting sense it would be Heinrich Brüssow. He is a small oke but I don’t think he ever lost a game against the All-Blacks and I met him when I was 12.
  4. Can you remember your first training session at UCT?
    It was December 2018, I arrived in Cape Town on the Sunday and we had training early on Monday morning. It was raining and the wind was pumping on the Green Mile. I immediately got a shock, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for this weather. Coming from Durban where it is summer all year round; I got a huge wake-up call in Cape Town. I think the most nerve racking part was the other guys were like “this is nothing, wait until league games in winter.” I was broken after that first training session!
  5. What do you eat before a big match?
    I always eat the same thing actually. Oats with peanut butter and honey and 2-3 eggs. When something is out of place it stresses me out so I like to keep it the same and have the same pre-match routine.
  6. What’s a typical training day of a VC rugby player (during season)?
    I wake up at 5:30, gym at 6:30 and then class at 8. I finish class around 12-1; I head back to SACS (where I live in the Ikeys Digs with Ash, Brink and Tedder). We have lunch at 1; I do some university work and then I usually spend about an hour on game reviews and research from previous matches. At about 5 I head to the mile for training; get home, eat and sleep.
  7. What motivates you to achieve your goals?
    I would say success motivates me. I really hate losing; I am very competitive in that sense. The reason I research and work so hard to try and win. Obviously, I know success isn’t just about winning, but it is nice to win.
  8. What’s the next goal in your rugby career?
    After UCT, I would like to go overseas and play rugby. I want to experience something different, especially different cultures.
  9. How would you compare playing for the Sharks to UCT?
    Exactly the same, if not better. UCT has the top coaches I have ever worked with. I think the big difference is the UCT coaches have their 9-5 jobs but we still getting the same quality as we did in Durban. It really highlights the effort and passion the coaches put in.
  10. What one tip would you give a young person looking to succeed/entering the club?
    Just take everything in; learn from people and be present. There is so much knowledge; it’s the top university in country. Every day, get up and learn. No one knows their limits, so I say, just keep on pushing and pushing.

Q&A with Gary Porter – Our Very Own Veteran

  1. Remind me what you studying – how’s it going – how has the move to online changed your work ethic?
    I am studying a post-grad diploma in Market Management; I completed my undergrad in Psychology and Organisational Psychology. The move to online hasn’t been much of an issue for me, it has made me a lot more flexible and has given me a lot more time to gym and do other stuff which is nice. From a marks point of view, I haven’t noticed much of a change.
  2. How are you keeping rugby alive in your life during this “forced downtime” ?
    At the beginning of lockdown, we had quite a lot of virtual socialisations; group Zoom calls and one-on-one talks with the coaches discussing and reviewing the season. I have been lucky enough to be training in a private (Covid friendly) gym which has kept me fit. I also coach [rugby] at Wynberg Boys High School, so I have had a lot of online chats with the guys to try further their knowledge and education; as opposed to physical training. So from a rugby point of view, it has been quite a busy time for me. But, to be honest, I think the first week or two of lockdown was quite nice because I didn’t have to think about rugby for the first time in a long time.
  3. What advice would you give a young guy entering the club in 2021?
    I think, firstly, take every opportunity you get. It is an incredible set-up to be in, but if you want to be there and don’t seize every opportunity, you’re wasting your time. I always say just give 100% of yourself on and off the field. It’s also an opportunity to chat to the older guys and learn so much from them. You can learn so much from them that you’d never have learnt in school; so I’d say just listen, ask questions and give it your all.
  4. What do you wish you knew before starting at:
    a) UCT
    In my gap year, I went to Western Province Institute in Stellenbosch to play in the U19 Currie Cup. When starting at UCT, I hadn’t been in the academic space for a while, I wish I had a clearer picture of what was expected of me from an academic point of view. The academic side was a bit overwhelming at the beginning.

    b) Rugby in the university set up?
    I came in quite young to the first side at UCT, I was 19 when I was playing in my first Varsity Cup. I wish I knew just to step back a bit and learn from the guys before trying to do everything myself. You get humbled very quickly in this set up, I was very arrogant at the beginning but quickly learnt my place. I honestly wish I came in a little more eager to learn instead of thinking I knew everything.
    But my first year at UCT was a very cool year nevertheless, four of us all came together [from province] to play for UCT but it was definitely a huge learning year for me. Coming from winning every single game in the Currie Cup to just about losing every single game at UCT was tough at the beginning. It definitely taught me the valuable lesson of how to deal with loses and how to come back from such a dark place – club wise and personally. It was a huge growing experience for me.
  5. How do you think you have evolved from a school boy rugby player to an Ikey Tiger? – what do you think the main differences are?
    It is a huge step up from school rugby to province rugby. At school you just play the season and its done, but at province we obviously played throughout the year. It was a huge wake-up call for me and I think it was the perfect stepping stone into playing for Varsity Cup. I don’t think I would have managed with Varsity Cup without playing in the Currie Cup before. I think once I left school, I actually started learning and adapting to the professional environment at province and then balancing university with rugby in the university set up. But, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.  
  6. How do you rate the strength of the Ikey Tigers 1st team rugby team?
    Although probably quite bias to say, I feel we would have been in the final this year. It has been a massive build up and accumulation of the last few years and this year it seemed that we really had everything going for us. We became a team that would fight back. This year’s team has been incredible, we all just gelled so well on and off the field which I think was integral to our success.
  7. The Ikey Tigers recently changed the head coach to Tom Dawson-Squibb – how to you think this affected the team set-up?
    Not to take away from Essie and the hard work he put in over the years, but the coach change definitely made a difference this year. A main difference is the relationship that Tom created with each and every player as well as the relationship between the guys. No coach I have ever had has managed to achieve that as well as Tom; he made an extremely competitive environment but we love, respect and support each other at the same time.
    Our theme this year was “The Defiant Ones” – the whole premise was to step away from the norm. When Corona hit, initially we didn’t get affected by it. We moved on and carried on. I think the theme is so poignant to the time we find ourselves in; even though we aren’t physically together, we all look forward to our Monday night Zoom sessions and this is something built into the culture that Tom created. It is quite special if you think about it, the friendships that have been created have been incredible even though everything else changed so drastically.
  8. What makes Ikey Tigers unique – club/socially wise?
    Off the bat, we accept everyone in the club. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress, your background… we don’t try to change you but rather celebrate what makes a person unique. All the different characters in the club make the club what it is; and it is so special. In other set-ups, they often try to change you and mould you into something that you are not. I think that this is something that is really awesome about the club; simply you’re a legend until proved otherwise.
  9. Three dream dinner guests – who would you invite and why?
    1. Kevin Hart – because he is so funny and would add great value around the table for a laugh.
    2. Richie McCaw – he would have interesting stories to share; he is an incredible rugby player so I think it would be cool to have it there for his input.
    3. My dad/old man – he has always been my number one supporter and definitely got to where I am today. He never missed a game from U9-Matric. He has become so special in my rugby career, but he has never ever put pressure on me, “if you want to quit, quit, if you want to play professionally then do it.” He has backed me in every decision I have made so he would be an absolutely invaluable dinner guest at my table.

Q&A with Jono Field – Our Talent Acquisition, Academic Support Go-to Guy & “Cool Uncle”

  1. What exactly do you do in the club?
    a.) Recruitment
    Recruiting potential future Ikey Tigers.
    b.) Academic support
    Helping the rugby players with anything academic-related and connecting them with private tutors when required.
    c.) Cubs manager
    I am less about the bottles and bibs and more about making sure the guys are happy on and off the field. I’d say I’m more like a cool uncle; because I am a bit older than the players, but I will still have a beer and celebrate with them after the game. When it comes to bottles, I would get about 4/10, but from a passion point of view I’d get 11/10.

    2. I am a young Grade 11 or Matric rugby player? How do I get in-touch with you and/or apply to play rugby at UCT next year?
    The whole way in which recruitment has been done this year has been turned on its head. Usually, I would have attended many of the big games in the Western Cape as well as the local Southern Suburbs’ Derby Days. I am also usually fortunate enough to go on a few recruitment roadshows and get a sense of the rugby talent across South Africa.

    However, Covid-19 has meant that the face to face meeting with a player and his parents after the game is not happening right now. What is interesting is that grade 12 rugby players seem to have more time than they usually would, and have been connecting with me online through platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp video etc. We have been forced to do things differently which has expanded our reach far beyond our usual recruitment catchment area. For example, two weeks ago I connected with three players in Oudtshoorn – I set up a Zoom meeting with them, shared my screen and helped them apply to UCT online. This is something I would not usually have done in the past, and it has honestly made a huge difference to our recruitment for 2021. A similar thing happened groups of grade 12 rugby players across South Africa. So, from a recruitment point of view, 2020 is shaping up to be the most successful season since I’ve been doing this in 2018.

    3. I imagine your academic support structures are in overdrive during this time seeing as no one is physically going into varsity. How has your academic support system changed during this time, especially for your rugby players?
    Bronwyn White has been incredible throughout the lock down period, leading the charge in terms of our academic support structures at the Ikeys. Naturally, the players get in touch with me because I have strong relationships with many of them, but when it comes to actually putting systems in place Bron has been working tirelessly behind the scenes. Interestingly enough, while the move to online learning has presented a new set of challenges, players aren’t requiring as much tutoring support as usual. I have a few theories as to why this might be; players have a lot more time on their hands and the University has done a good job in transitioning from face-to-face to online learning. The key ingredient in our support system is that I am on the ground, living the experience with the players, while drawing on the experience gained during my years as a student. I am not some enigma or a name behind a screen, but rather a familiar face that anyone in the club can come to with a problem.

    4. What advice would you give a young guy entering the club in 2021?
    Firstly, you come to UCT to obtain a degree and you need to remember that. UCT is regarded as Africa’s best academic institution, so it is an opportunity to get a degree from a world-leading university. Importantly, the Ikeys feel very strongly about the academics of their players; and we are invested in their future after rugby.

    Secondly, you need to buy in and be enthusiastic. It sounds cliché, but as a player, you want to have positive relationships with the other players, managers, coaches and all the supporting staff. It isn’t about the being the loudest guy with a beer in his hand – we understand that not everyone has that type of personality. It’s about showing genuine interest in what your teammates are doing both on and off the field.

    I like to think we are very approachable as management, so communication is another is at the core of my third piece of advice. Once you arrive at the Club we have already invested hours into you and your journey; so we are absolutely interested in what is happening in your life and ensuring that you are coping. Therefore, you need to do you utmost to communicate with management and your colleagues. Sometimes you will have to leave your comfort zone to do so, but that is what life is about.

    5. From your experience as a recruiter, how do you think the guys evolve from schoolboy rugby into varsity rugby? What are a few things you can pinpoint as unique to UCT rugby?
    I would definitely say that our unique point of difference is the freedom of expression the players are given when they take to the field. Playing rugby is an art form and we are not a Club that is incredibly strict and dictatorial when it comes to how you want to play the game. As a player, you have the right to express yourself and I definitely think that our motto – Running Rugby – is something we live by at the Club.

    Furthermore, we don’t recruit the volume of players that some of the other Clubs do. As such, players are granted phenomenal opportunities from a young age. Take William Rose as an example. He was 18 years old when he made his senior Varsity Cup debut in 2019. Later that year, he won the Varsity World Cup in Japan. I truly believe that the time on the park as a junior player is what helps our players evolve faster than most.

    While I don’t understand the game on a technical level like the coaches do, I do know enough to say that the capacity to express yourself on the field as a player is something that makes UCT Rugby special.

    6. What makes the Ikey Tigers unique from a social point of view?
    I definitely think the diversity of people coming into the system sets us apart. Some of our younger guys come to UCT from all over the country. We have different languages, races and cultures all cooperating within one social environment and it is incredible to see. We are known to be a very social club and it is completely normal to debrief the game for 15 minutes and then the next thing you know we are discussing who in the team will be the first one to get married. We are a diverse family and guys are not afraid to mingle and integrate.

    7. Three dream dinner guests – who would you invite and why?
    Elon Musk
    He genuinely wants to change the way we do things as a human race; as a business person and a titan of the industries he operates in. Elon doesn’t allow naysayers or the historic limits of humankind to get in the way of what he plans to achieve.

    Lawrence Anthony
    He was one of the most passionate conservationists South Africa has ever seen. Lawrence regularly put his own life in danger in the fight to protect threatened and vulnerable wildlife species. He is also the author of one of my favourite books, “The Elephant Whisperer.”

    Bruce Whitfield
    Bruce is an award-winning journalist and radio presenter. He is the host of the “Money Show”, my daily dose of financial news and market insights. I don’t think the conversation would ever end if he sat down at my dinner table!