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Ask any sports player a question about what they most love about their chosen sport and be sure to hear incredible stories of the unforgettable bonds formed with their teammates, coaches and fans.

Today we find ourselves in an incredibly competitive world, where winning at all costs has become such a myopic focus that we often forget who we are and what our larger purpose is. There is much evidence supporting the fact that sports builds bridges, challenges traditional boundaries and provides all participants with a lesson in teamwork, dedication, empathy and respect. Not only respect for their fellow teammates but for their opponents too. These are all vital life skills required for a successful future.

With the start of the 2018 edition of the Iqhawe Week upon us, running until the 4th October, treating South African rugby fans to 21 games showcasing the skill of the country’s top Under-15 SA schools’ rugby, it’s both the perfect timing and opportunity for a pledge of commitment to the Handshake Challenge.

Brainchild of former professional South African tennis player and Davis Cup Captain, John-Laffnie de Jager, the #HandshakeChallenge is an official challenge to all sportspersons across all sporting disciplines to shake hands with their opponents both before and after their respective game. Stefan Terblanche, CEO of the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA), states that “The Handshake Challenge is a pledge to remind ourselves of the important role we play in making the world a better place,” adding “Sport has the ability to change lives and this act is a sign of respect to ourselves and to our opponents, challenging all of us to be our best, to play hard but always remember the rules.”

The Iqhawe Week, which began at Johannesburg’s Bill Jardine Stadium today, 1st October, is part of SARLA’s broader mandate to achieve true transformation and social upliftment within rugby as a sport. A joint initiative with SA Rugby, it brings together U15 teams from the 14 rugby unions across South Africa. The event is an amazing showcase of young rugby talent, with many players from non-traditional rugby playing schools and under-privileged, rural areas taking part.

Considered a great achievement for those participating as they take the next important step in their rugby careers, it is also a special occasion for the coaches and team management members. Financially supported and endorsed by SA Rugby and the Gauteng Provincial Government, the event is hosted in partnership with the City of Johannesburg and MyPlayers and has in previous years played witness to many great matches and talent discovery. It is thus highly appropriate that SARLA pledges its support of the #HandshakeChallenge at this time, and in doing so challenges all of its partners to the same.

SARLA’s commitment to transformation is wholly evident through other progressive initiatives that both create and realise the development of opportunities at a grassroots level and include the Vuka Rugby Development Programme and the Legends Cup.

Stefan Terblanche, CEO of SARLA smiles broadly as he says “I am filled with emotion at the anticipation of witnessing the #HandshakeChallenge in action on the field over the 21 games to be played during the next few days,” adding “We must always remember that sport has the ability to do so much more than develop champion sportspersons, but champion people too.”

Terblanche’s final wish? “SARLA challenges everyone attending the Iqhawe Week to document their handshake and upload their picture, using the hashtag #HandshakeChallenge to show their support. Let’s do this!”

Facebook: SARugbyLegendsAssociation
Twitter: @SARugbyLegends
Instagram: sarugbylegends


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