PhD student clinches Mr SA title

01 December 2016 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo Michael Hammond.
PhD student Habib Noorbhai is the new Mr SA, having won the title in Johannesburg last week.
PhD student Habib Noorbhai is the new Mr SA, having won the title in Johannesburg last week.

PhD student in sports science Habib Noorbhai clinched the Mr South Africa title on 24 November. The biokineticist, humanitarian and PhD student in exercise science at UCT was one of 14 finalists.

The competition has been staged annually since 1982 and winners include some household names: Michael Moll of Top Billing fame, Egoli actor Marcus Muller and Pasella presenter Dieter Voigt.

“From the start, the journey as a contestant was full of learning and more fruitful and meaningful than the destination,” he said.

“While it is still sinking in, and while I remain humbled and grateful, I understand the responsibility this role has for our beautiful country and acknowledge all the amazing support received. Thank you!”

Humanitarian at heart

One of Noorbhai's first goals is to round up 35 000 change agents in South Africa to help the country to face its various challenges. (Sign up to be a change agent...)

Noorbhai has already made his mark as a young South African. In 2013 he was voted among South Africa's 100 brightest young minds and in 2015 he was named among Mail & Guardian's top 200 young South Africans.

The former Roosevelt High pupil completed a BA in Sport Psychology at the University of Johannesburg, honours in biokinetics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an MPhil in biokinetics at UCT. He hopes to be awarded his PhD by the end of 2016.

At heart Noorbhai is a humanitarian. In 2013 he started the Humanitarians, an NPO focused on outreach in Western Cape communities to promote sport, health, education, sustainability and innovation, which is measured through research.

His life motto reflects his dual interests: 'The ink of a scholar and the heart of a volunteer are holier than the blood of a martyr.' ”

Revolutionary training bat

Noorbhai is also making his mark as a scholar in a field that clearly excites him. A back injury at school put paid to his own cricket career, but he followed on by putting his mind to work on the science of the sport.

His PhD research is about the evolution of the batting backlift technique in cricket. Working with his supervisor, Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes, they have pioneered a new coaching cricket bat design that promises to revolutionise the backlift technique: the direction of the bat or the angle the batter follows in lifting the bat and bringing it down to strike the ball.

The bat, with its racquet-shaped toe-end, was developed with Noakes and Russell Woolmer, son of the legendary late former Proteas coach, Bob Woolmer.

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