Institute built on people and values

01 August 2005

When Professor Tim Noakes and Morné du Plessis unveiled the Sports Science Institute in Newlands in 1995 it was at a victorious time in the nation's sporting life.

South Africa had just won the Rugby World Cup (spawning the term amaBokkeBokke), and a year later Bafana Bafana took the African Cup of Nations.

Reminiscing on the evolution of the institute at its recent 10th anniversary celebrations, Noakes confessed their business plan had been fanciful.

"But it worked," he added, paying tribute to Du Plessis's "tight leadership".

Today the institute is one of the few privately-owned sports institutes in the world.

Noakes believes its success has been based on values.

The reputation of the institute's academic arm, the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM), has been built on sound and pioneering research, luring international postgraduate students.

While the guest list boasted some very recognisable names and faces in academia and sport, it was also an opportunity to unveil more developments. The big news was the opening of the Sports Science Orthopaedic Clinic (SSOC), a facility that provides a full range of orthopaedic care, both to the public and sports people, through a team of leading orthopaedic specialists.

In May, the team performed a knee operation (hemi cap) using pioneering technology, the first of its kind in South Africa. Instead of replacing the entire knee joint, surgeons were able to replace only the damaged tissue.

It was also a time to remember. It was a poignant moment when Ziphelele Mbambo's family were introduced to the guests.

Mbambo, who died in 1999, was one of the first young black scientists to study at the SSI, and it is through his memory that the institute aims to attract young black scientists entering the biokinetics field. The Ziphelele Mbambo Scholarship Fund supports disadvantaged students with the potential to study in the field.

As Noakes once said, in addition to the institute's many contributions to sport there had to be transformation at a scientific level, too.

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