Youth Month: Ikeys star Ntokozo Makhaza rises to top of Varsity Cup charts

05 June 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Video Production Team Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko and Nomfundo Xolo. Read time 5 min.
Ikey Tigers rugby player Ntokozo Makhaza had a stunning 2024 season. Photo Ruairi Abrahams.

Ntokozo Makhaza’s third full season as a University of Cape Town (UCT) Ikey Tigers Varsity Cup rugby player has seen him walk away with some coveted individual accolades, even though the team fell short at this year’s final.

This Youth Month, the 22-year-old’s achievements, coupled with his three-year game plan to reach this pinnacle, call for celebration, particularly when you consider that Makhaza has flourished in just over two years. However, the Harrismith-born Makhaza is still setting himself up for more, while also having encouragement for his age-mates and those starting out in primary school. He attributes his success to his much younger self.

Makhaza, a wing and fullback, established himself as the competition’s all-time record point scorer with 265 points over two seasons with the Ikey Tigers. What’s more, he was awarded the overall “Player that rocks” (de facto player of the tournament from February to April this year) at the conclusion of the tournament.

The Ikey Tigers, as a team, contested their third final in four years and narrowly lost to the University of the Free State 42–45 on 22 April. The team had won five of their regular season eight matches; losing two and securing a draw in one. They had managed to accumulate 298 points, while conceding 165. They scored 36 tries going into the final.

Ntokozo Makhaza lines up one of his many successful kicks this season
Ntokozo Makhaza lines up one of his many successful kicks this season. Photo Nasief Manie.

“My rugby journey started in the Free State, but developed when I moved to Northlands Primary, Durban, in 2012 and I learned the game in depth there. I later got the opportunity to study at Northwood School (also Durban) and that’s where I started to flourish and enjoy my rugby.

“The switch from Free State to Durban was simple for me because Free State people love their rugby, and the Northlands Primary move allowed me to experience the game on a different level and with the coaches’ knowledge there … it played into my love for the sport. I saw from there that this [rugby] is what I want to make a career out of and from there I put my head down and put in the work and I’m still reaching for the dream.”


“For the opportunity, I am grateful.”

In keeping with being a young man with a good head on his shoulders, by the time he had made the decision to move to the Western Cape – and UCT in particular – the decision was as much about sport as it was about getting a degree. “I also knew you could get injured so the back-up is academics and the best institution for that is UCT, so my goal was to get accepted into university … and after having seen Varsity Cup rugby on TV, I was attracted to it and that Western Cape rugby in general is good so it was a no-brainer to come this side. And for the opportunity, I’m forever grateful,” he said.

“Coming into the Ikeys system in 2022 as a newcomer, I had a lot to prove. It was quite tough, and you could say I struggled adjusting to the speed of the game, but I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who were passionate about the game [and] who encouraged me to keep going and keep learning. Going into 2023, I was a bit more confident; it was my second full year in the Ikeys team and that elevated me to really keep going.”

‘Guns blazing’

The genial Makhaza attributed his individual accolades this season to his team. “They elevated me, so I cannot take all the credit.” Entering his third season, he went in “guns blazing”. “I wanted to [in 2024] reach for the stars and I think to some extent I did. I started kicking in high school, but I wasn’t very good at it. For the 2023 season I started kicking for poles for Ikeys and it was one of the things I worked on for the season and I saw I was good at it, and I worked on it more and more. Fortunately, it worked in my favour when I was given an opportunity – and I’m still going [strong].”

He appreciates that there will be opportunities for him to stretch his record-point scoring even further and, in doing so, make him indispensable to not only his Ikeys team, but to would-be suitors at a more senior level. “The dream and the goal is to make it as far as I can with my rugby career and I will look for professional contracts where available and I am hoping to attract some interest. The main goal is to obviously represent my country. For now, I’d be grateful getting into any professional set-up.”

Summing up his youth month message – even at his age – Makhaza rallied youngsters to appreciate sport: “Youth engaging in sport is encouraging for me. It affords opportunities and it brings people together. It has allowed me the opportunity to study at this university and connect with people I wouldn’t necessarily connect with. It’s opportunity and hope. There has to be a winner in sport and players all go through some team loss at some point. Stay the course and enjoy the ride.”

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Youth Month 2024

Youth Month 2024

In celebration of Youth Month, UCT News will feature profiles of young individuals from the University of Cape Town (UCT) community who are making meaningful contributions to positive change in South Africa. June is a significant month in the country, marking the commemoration of the tragic events of 16 June 1976, when hundreds of young people lost their lives protesting against unjust education policies.




“The windows of opportunity are open, it’s up to you to use them wisely.”
John Singbae II, LLM candidate specialising in international law at the University of Cape Town


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