University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng hosted a celebratory dinner for the UCT rugby team, the Ikey Tigers, on Friday, 29 July 2022.
In her address to the gathering she expressed her appreciation to the Ikey Tigers for the role that they play at the university. “Sport is hugely important in the university environment,” she said. “The vibe that Ikeys bring to the university is incredible.”
Professor Phakeng confessed that she had never watched rugby until she started following the Ikey Tigers but that her respect for the sport had grown since then. Addressing the players, she said, “I hope that you fight as much when it comes to academics as … you fight on The Green Mile.”
The Ikey Tigers play their home fixtures on the upper campus rugby field commonly known as The Green Mile.
She mentioned that many individual donors have a great affinity to the Ikey Tigers and provide support to the university as a result of this. Some of the donors are alumni who have also played rugby at UCT. “People who played for the Ikeys a long time ago still speak of the Ikeys as if they played yesterday,” said Phakeng. “What we do together challenges other sporting codes.”
The event was held at UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) and was attended by UCT executives, Ikeys management, coaching staff and players.
The chairperson of the UCT Ikey Tigers Players Committee, Jason MacLeod-Smith, paid tribute to Phakeng for the support that she provides to the rugby team.
“I hope that we have made you proud throughout the campaign. We will continue to defy and strive for greater heights,” he said.
“Our women’s rugby team has grown in numbers and participation.”
They are the first UCT women’s rugby team to represent the university at national level in a tournament. UCT established a women’s rugby team in 2018, partly in a bid to shift the perception that rugby is a “man’s game”. The team is known as the UCT Swifts.
The Ikey Tigers are also involved in initiatives to give back to communities such as through their involvement in Vusa. Vusa began in 2001 as a rugby programme for children in the Langa community. The Ikey Tigers help to transfer their skills to the children and coaches at Vusa.
A sense of belonging
Club chairperson and vice-president, Greg Fury, spoke about the importance of “belonging” in the context of the role of rugby and other sports in the history of South Africa. “Sport is one of the few environments in South Africa,” he said, “where genuine relationships can be formed irrespective of where individuals come from.”
Phakeng encouraged the players to grab hold of the opportunities presented at UCT. Since the inception of the FNB Varsity Cup, the Ikey Tigers have been one of the strongest competitors, finishing runners-up in 2008, 2010 and again in 2021. The Ikey Tigers were losing semi-finalists in the 2022 FNB Varsity Cup.
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