At the U18 Craven Week in 2008, an exciting Golden Lions side handed Eastern Province a royal hiding when they trounced their opponents 62-7.
One name that stood out in the performance was outside centre Wandile Mjekevu, better known as ‘Jakes’ to his friends, who ran in a hat-trick of tries, destroying the opposition.
‘Craven Week was awesome for me and scoring those three tries was just amazing,’ says Mjekevu. ‘It was a great experience and obviously a dream come true. Playing at Craven Week was something I had thought about since I was very young.’
His performances at Craven Week earned him a call-up to the SA Schools side – an accolade he admits he was not expecting.
‘I was so surprised, but so happy. I was actually with my mother when I got the news so that made it even better.’
The SA Schools side was ultimately beaten by a more clinical SA Academy outfit in their only game, but Mjekevu insists the defeat had a positive impact on the players.
‘Playing for SA Schools was wonderful but it was maybe a good thing we lost just to humble us a bit. We all thought we had arrived when we were selected for SA Schools. The loss reminded us that there is still a lot of hard work to be done. You have to continuously work to get to the top and then stay there. So in that respect, it was good.’
Mjekevu attended primary school in the Eastern Cape and after competing in an U15 festival, he decided that if he wished to further his rugby development, he would have to seek out other avenues. King Edward VII were the beneficiaries of his decision.
‘I knew that if I wanted to continue with my rugby, I had to move up to Jo’burg. I had a friend who was at King Edward and he organised me a bursary to attend the school. It was probably the best decision I ever made and it’s been really great being here.’
The move has clearly been a successful one for Mjekevu – he was appointed head boy and he is captain of the KES 1st XV. His coach at King Edward, Carl Spilhaus, says choosing Mjekevu was an easy decision.
‘From the moment he arrived, he showed great leadership and was mature beyond his years. Bear in mind he only turned 17 this year. He has a natural aura about him and the players respected him and followed him.’
Mjekevu has signed a contract with the Lions and intends to study a BComm (LLB) at the University of Johannesburg in 2009.
– This article first appeared in SA Rugby magazine