If ever there was an example of how a day can be a lifetime in rugby, it has to be Blue Bulls winger Sibahle Maxwane’s story this week.
Maxwane spent most of the Wednesday preparing – and talking to this interviewer – to play a SuperSport Rugby Challenge against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park.
But a day later he found himself in the starting line-up of the Bulls’ Super Rugby side to play the Lions after Jamba Ulengo couldn’t recover from his injury.
Maxwane was going on about how he was still hoping to get Super Rugby game time this year, not knowing that the very next day he would be named on the left wing in the Bulls starting line-up.
Clearly one never knows who’s watching the Rugby Challenge.
The 1.86m, 86kg winger has been very productive since he got to Pretoria late last year, scoring eight tries for Tuks in the Varsity Cup before scoring four more – including a hat-trick against the Pumas – in the Bulls’ three Rugby Challenge games thus far.
Originally from King William’s Town, where he went to Dale College, Maxwane has already travelled the breadth of this country for his rugby despite only being 21.
His professional career started at Western Province, where he was at the Rugby Institute before being included in an under-21 side boasting the likes of EW Viljoen, Leolin Zas and Grant Hermanus, and the Currie Cup qualifiers team.
But then the Bulls came knocking: “They approached me and I saw an opportunity and I took it. I came here with the mindset of wanting to play Super Rugby and to play more than a few games for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup.
“The Rugby Challenge is a stepping stone to that, I know that the [Super Rugby] coaches have their eye on me and if I do well I’ll get a chance.”
As it turns out, the coaches were watching him a little more closely than he thought.
The route to playing wing was also scenic, with Maxwane beginning his career “in the centres at and playing a little fullback at school”, with the move to the touchline being made permanent at WP under-19 level.
Consequently, the Tuks Sports Science student doesn’t mind which wing he plays on: “It doesn’t really matter where I play. I can be anything you want at the moment: if you want defence I’m there, if you want attack I’m there.
“I’m also a creative wing because I’ve played centre. I’m working on my kicking and taking the high ball to be a complete winger.”
Speaking of the Golden Lions game in which he now won’t be playing, Maxwane said while the Lions, who have won all three of their Rugby Challenge games to date, would be favourites to win the game, the Bulls were quietly confident they could do the job.
“We all know they’re a tough team and have been playing well since pre-season,” he explained. “We watched their (one-point win) game against the Valke and there are points where we can expose them…