Springboks women’s captain and former Napoli Universiade participant, Babalwa Latsha recently made history when she became the first female South African rugby player to turn professional.
Latsha impressed Spanish scouts when she played for the Springboks against Spain in September last year. She penned a deal with Spanish club SD Eibar Femenino, which will see her competing at least until the end of the 2019/20 season, with an option to renew.
“So far playing in Spain has been great, it is a different experience in comparison to back home,” said the scrumhalf. “Everything is different – the language, the environment, the weather, the people are different. However, the one thing we have in common is the game of rugby which I am enjoying a whole lot, I am enjoying both the new experience and journey.”
A former football player, Latsha began playing rugby only in 2014 but has never looked back since.
“I think it is a great achievement and I am extremely proud to be the first South African female to turn professional, it is something I have been dreaming about for a very long time and working towards,” she said. The newly minted pro further added that the opportunity came at the right time in her career.
Having represented her country as captain on the international stage, Latsha had this to say about lessons learned on the playing field: “One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my career is that consistency is very important; one needs to be consistent because everything rides on performance. “Another key thing is hard work, because you cannot substitute hard work and neither can you buy it. You just have to put in the hard work and it will pay off eventually,” said the 25-year-old.
Born and bred in the township of Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, Latsha holds an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
“UWC played a major part in my development as a rugby player because that is where I started playing, I matured and I grew,” she said.
“I will forever be grateful to UWC for making a student-athlete’s life a lot easier; they were always willing to assist and be of service,” Latsha expressed her gratitude. The peak of her university sports career came at the Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade, where she represented South Africa in the women’s 7s, just narrowly missing out on a bronze medal. Latsha also plays fifteens rugby.
Looking towards the future Latsha said, “The plan for the rest of the season is to finish my tenure here in Spain and then go back home and represent my country. I want to continue doing my best for my club as well as my country. I want to represent myself as a brand and also the brand of South African rugby.”
Latsha urges young female rugby players to work hard. “I have learned that opportunity recognises hard work. When you have been working hard and doing what you need to, you attract positive outcomes. Keep your head down and stay humble, always work on improving your craft. Dream big but make sure you work towards that dream,” she concluded.