Cloudius Sagandira says combining an academic vocation
with a sporting career is the best thing that could have happened to him while at
Nelson Mandela University.
The Madibaz football star, a former captain of the
club, has recently graduated with a doctorate in chemistry, but will look back
on his varsity days with extreme gratitude for the opportunities he received.
He is one of 70 Madibaz Sport graduates who obtained
their qualifications at the university’s graduation ceremonies in December and
April after excelling on and off the field.
Among other high-profile student-athletes who
graduated were ace swimming twins Alard and Alaric Basson and athletics star
Ischke Senekal, all of whom have represented South Africa.
Sagandira said he embraced the challenges he faced in
the lecture halls and on the sports fields, adding in a message to aspiring
students that it was all about hard work.
“In terms of first-years it is about setting your
goals and getting your priorities right,” he said.
“With the right sort of determination, hard work,
passion, commitment, self-discipline and, above all, God’s grace, anything is
“And you should never settle for less.”
He said the latter comment was the best piece of
advice he received at varsity, while he also tried to keep things in
“Whenever I achieve something really good, I always
remember that I am not the first or the last to do it, and someone, somewhere
has done it even better.
“I always want to find ways to improve, always be
hungry and let humility lead the way as I follow.”
The demanding work he put in during his extensive
laboratory research was balanced by the release he received on the training
“After a heavy day indoors I used to refresh at soccer
training in the evening,” said Sagandira.
“That was a very important routine for me to keep
myself fresh and energised.
“Besides that, football really helped build my
character, determination, competitiveness and discipline, as well as a sense of
responsibility. It brought out the best in me.”
Sagandira said it was impossible to pay tribute to all
the individuals who guided him through his varsity life.
“All I can say is that I got all the necessary support
I needed where possible to be where am I am today and I am so grateful to NMU.
“This might sound like everything was given to me on a
silver platter but, trust me, it was all through sweat and tears and I am glad
it paid off.
“Most importantly, getting the opportunity to study
and play soccer at Mandela University was the best thing to have happened to
me. The academic and sporting environments were conducive to the pursuit of
excellence in both fields.”
Shot put and discus exponent Senekal has qualified
with an honours degree in education and said her varsity career combined her
love for children and her passion for sport.
“Neither was more important than the other so I
decided I would do both to the best of my abilities even if it meant less sleep
for me,” said the Uitenhage-based athlete.
She added that her mantra was to “believe you can
“My message to aspiring sports stars is to always test
your limits and strive to make your weaknesses your strengths.
“Keep on believing that you can achieve anything you
put your mind to.”
Senekal said the support she received from the university
structures had been crucial during her time there.
“The education department allowed me time off to
pursue my sporting career in the knowledge that it would be my responsibility
to catch up with any work missed.
“Similarly, Madibaz Sport was understanding in
allowing me off some evening events to catch up on my academic commitments, so
that was very important in helping me achieve my objectives.”
The Basson swimming twins, who are doing postgraduate
degrees in construction management, said finding a balance between work and
play was essential to succeeding at university.
“My advice to first-years
is to take time ‘not just to plant the mind but to also water the mind’,” said
“As a student it’s
so easy to get yourself caught up in study stress and pressures that you forget
to take a breath or a mental break.
“Taking time out to
relax, and feeding your mind positive thoughts before taking on the next task,
“As a sportsman
you cannot do what the rest are doing, so associate yourself with students with
a similar drive.
“The best advice I
got was to enjoy the journey as far as possible instead of just focusing on the
Alaric said a
focus on doing well in both fields helped him to manage the challenges he
“It was never
possible for me to really enjoy the ‘varsity life’ to the fullest, but my
desire to achieve in both kept me motivated,” he said.
both in my sport and academically over the past few years has been rewarding
and all the sacrifices have paid off and still are.”
They both paid
tribute to the roles played by their parents and the varsity structures.
family support, our aquatics manager Melinda Goosen and coach Mark Edge were
major role players,” they said.
“In addition, the
Eastern Cape Academy of Sport played a big part in helping us achieve what we
have so far, so we are grateful to all those who have supported us.”
director of sport Riaan Osman said they prided themselves on the holistic development
of their student-athletes.
“We are thankful
to the various departments at the university with whom we collaborate to ensure
our elite student-athletes achieve success in their academics,” he said.
scholarships are available to top achievers who register for courses of their
choice, subject to them meeting the desired criteria.
“We then provide
the necessary support to assist them in managing their studies, especially when
they out of class competing in their various disciplines.”
He said they gave the
student-athletes access to online digital platforms via the University Blended
Learning initiatives, plus daily monitoring of their academic progress.
“If any red flags
are identified, we intervene by providing tutors for the students to ensure
they will ultimately graduate in their studies,” added Osman.
student-athletes missed a test, they needed to write a make-up test, based on
more work than the rest of the class were tested on.
“In essence, this
disadvantaged the student, but thanks to the online access to study material,
including lectures, they are now able to pursue their studies in conjunction
with achieving success in their specific sporting disciplines.”