New FNB UCT skipper Ntsolo Setlaba is a Varsity Cup success story. Not because of what he has done – or is about to do – on the field, but rather for what he has already achieved away from rugby.
Having first joined UCT in 2008, where he shared the captaincy of UCT’s Under-20 A1s with former Varsity Cup flyhalf Doug Mallett, Setlaba took a break from rugby the next year in order to complete his studies which saw him come away with his Social Science degree (majoring in economics and politics) in 2011.
As his studies wound down, he also returned to competitive rugby last year – after a break of a year and a half – and soon found himself playing a key role for UCT as they went on to win the 2011 Western Province Super League title.
And, now, as the fifth FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International season is about to get underway (on Monday, February 6), the impressive 22-year-old openside flanker will begin the Ikeys’ campaign as their third full-time skipper.
“It’s a huge, huge honour,” Ntsolo told varsitycup.co.za about the UCT captaincy.
“I’m obviously very honoured to be captaining the team, but I think I’m even more excited at the prospect of leading the guys out and getting a chance to play in the Varsity Cup.”
Setlaba, despite giving up rugby in order to concentrate on his studies, has been a keen admirer of the Varsity Cup over the years and is well aware of what it will take to follow in the footsteps of JJ Gagiano and Nick Fenton-Wells (previous UCT captains) before him.
He said: “The big thing for me is to show the guys around me that I’m good enough to be their captain.
“I like to lead by example. There’s no other way in my mind as you couldn’t expect people to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”
Ntsolo played six first team matches last year – which helped him prepare for the rigours of Varsity Cup in terms of the necessary physical approach and conditioning – but he is now bracing himself for a change in the speed of the game.
“There’s no doubt that the Varsity Cup is played at a fast pace,” he said.
“The league was an amazing experience – especially after we won it – but I was very lucky to have joined a team that had such great structures. Winning the league was no fluke, and neither was the Varsity Cup, and we want to continue in that vein this season.”
Whilst Setlaba will have his hands full as the Ikeys captain in 2012, he will also be continuing with his studies – having registered for his honours in politics this year.
For now, however, it’s all about the Varsity Cup and he admitted ahead of Monday’s kick-off against Shimlas (at 5pm): “It really is an exciting time… this build-up (to the tournament).
“Going to the launch (at Blair Atholl) last week was a wake-up call in terms of how big this tournament is on a national level. But just being around campus at UCT these past few days, and seeing all the posters and guys and girls walking around in their Varsity Cup T-shirts, made me realise how lucky we are to be out there representing the Ikeys on a Monday night!”
Ntsolo Setlaba fast facts:
– He matriculated from Michaelhouse in 2007.
– He represented Natal at the 2007 Craven Week tournament.
– He played for the Western Province Under-19 team in 2008.
– His favourite player – and captaincy idol – is France’s Thierry Dusautoir
– His favourite movie is ‘A Beautiful Mind’, and he loves hip-hop music.
By Howard Kahn