11 CONSECUTIVE school terms of first team sport… KZN10.com would love to know if any boys of the KZN10 can beat, match or come close to the feat achieved by Prince Mazeka of St Charles College.
The Prince story is surprising in part and fascinating in many.
Natural talent is not scarce in the Class of 10 KZN schools – never has been nor ever will be – but these fine educational institutions’ primary purpose, as much as we KZN schoolboy sports fans are sometimes forced to admit (rather grudgingly it must be said)… Yes it is primarily about progress in the classroom.
Martin Ashworth feature image: Blessed with natural athleticism… always a thrill to watch… Luyanda ‘Prince’ Mazeka of St Charles College.
So, think for a moment of three or four first team practices every week since the third term of grade 9 (going into – at this moment – Prince’s final term of first team sport)… the off-field gym training, team video analysis sessions, painful injuries that make time spent in the classroom physically difficult to endure… and so on. Undaunted, Prince has soldiered on.
Luyanda “Prince” Mazeka, born in Kokstad on 25 April 2000 of parents Herbert and Nonzuzo Mazeka and younger sibling of sisters Babalwa and Akhona, has taken this journey and emerged from it with the grace, humbleness and a sincere likeability that draws one to him, yet it’s clear that underneath lies an inner strength of character that has ensured his academics haven’t fallen away.
As mentioned, one of the reasons for this KZN10.com interview with Prince is that he is now embarking on his 11th consecutive term of first team sport – across three codes – firstly soccer, then basketball, then rugby.
It is his 11th and last, as the grade 12 Prince Mazeka isn’t eligible for the fourth term Stayers basketball season.
If you have watched Prince playing any of the three you will have marvelled at his natural balance, agility and – the hallmark of the exceptionally talented – the appearance of having so much time on his hands that he is operating in slow motion compared to his opponents. Yet it is all lightning quick – with those around him scrambling to keep the pace.
The first team appearances started in grade 9 (third term, 2015) when the Prince of KZN10 schoolboy sportsmen made his debut for the Saints firsts soccer team. It was the Pietermaritzburg High Schools Football Association Cup – more commonly known as the Maritzburg Cup.
“I was very nervous, my first time in a first team shirt,” says this quietly spoken, infinitely polite and humble young man.
“It was a key match in the Group stage of the event and every match, every goal, every point counted. We finished second in our Group to qualify for the semi-finals. In the semis we won on penalties to reach the final, against Maritzburg College, which we won.
“I scored the winning goal in that final against Maritzburg College. How did that feel? Nothing can explain the feeling I felt at that moment.” Indeed, no greater thrill could ever be hoped for from a left wing and striker of the Prince pedigree.
Asked to describe how the goal came about, it is clear that Prince remembers it like yesterday. “It was a throw-in deep in the Maritzburg College half. One of my team-mates flicked it on and the ball landed just outside the big box. I hit it on the bounce and goal time it was. I’ve still got my winners’ medal at my family’s home in Pietermaritzburg.”
Saints first team coach Gary Ritchie on Prince the soccer talent:
Gary: “Prince has played 1st team football since Maritzburg Cup in grade 9. He is a flair footballer who has the ability to change matches, he can kick equally with both feet and his explosive speed is his greatest attribute. Prince has a superb attitude and even as a youngster in the team, the seniors embraced his drive. He scored the winner against Maritzburg College in the Maritzburg Cup final. There is no doubt that he could play professional football one day.”
Next up for Prince was firsts basketball in grade 10. “I started off playing cricket at Saints, in grade 8 and a bit of 9 before switching to basketball. Almost all my Saints friends played basketball on the weekends (Prince is a boarder) and I’d join the other boarders playing socially. My love for the game grew to the point where I wanted to play seriously.”
And so it was, with Prince lighting up the packed stands at the Saints indoor arena, the epic Alan Paton Hall derbies at Maritzburg College – and theatres of schoolboy basketball further afield with his prowess in the point guard and shooting guard positions.
Saints first team basketball head coach Darren Holcomb, a former national star and St Charles College head of Upper School, reserves high praise for the Prince.
“Luyanda has had an excellent basketball year and is to be commended for his attitude and determination to succeed. He has been a centre-piece in our offence as well as a key component of our defensive structure. He has excellent positioning – and the ability to make the outside shot consistently and get to the hoop. He is deceptively quick and has the ability to put his defensive marker under pressure. As one of the two captains of the team, he has been a pleasure to work with and is a major reason for the 2018 team’s success.”
For no higher praise could a young man wish.
The third leg of the Prince hat-trick was first XV rugby – in his grade 11 year (2017).
(Of great – and surprise – interest to me was the news that Luyanda Prince Mazeka and Maritzburg College head prefect and first team rugby eighthman and captain Ntuthuko Mchunu are childhood friends, best friends and next-door neighbours in the PMB suburb of Napierville).
“We were at Piet Retief Primary School and grew up together, played sports together since we were little kids. He’s a great friend of mine to this day.”
That’s the magic of KZN10 schoolboy sport – it’s about the friends made… the results soon fade.
“Getting back to my rugby at Saints I had played A team through the age groups and count myself blessed to have enjoyed two years of first team rugby at fullback.”
This is the Prince that Jono Cook has seen more of: And Prince is as apt a name I can think of in recalling how the fullback glides over the turf, the perfect balance, the electric acceleration, the inside and outside breaks, the steps cutting the opposition to threads, the beautiful timing of the pass, the wonderful timing in kicking the ball out of hand and from place-kicks. And it’s not just the good stuff on attack – plenty of hard tackles too when the occasion demanded it. Without a shadow of doubt My Prince of KZN10 fullbacks.
As good as the other Saints first XV players were, it was Prince who first came to mind when I looked forward to a match. Prince, of those guys you never tire of watching because, like the opposition, you are never quite sure what the number 15 is going to come up with next – and invariably it was pretty damn good.
Here’s what Saints first XV co-coach and backline specialist, the former Michaelhouse star centre, Nick Jackson, has to say about my KZN10 Prince of fullbacks.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching Prince for the last two years for the first rugby side. Prince is an incredible natural sportsman, if you ask him to learn something new he is able to pick it up almost immediately. A complete attacking force from fullback that can kick the ball a mile or glide his way through would-be tacklers and leave them in his wake. He is defensively solid, and consistently makes correct decisions on the field. His greatest attribute is that he is an upstanding young man who is willing to listen and learn, as well as making others in his team raise their level of play.”
Wow! That’s way better than I could put it, but then I guess Jacko has spent so much time watching and coaching the Prince he would be in a better position to catch the essence so well.
So with such a range of skill-sets packed into one lithe frame, which is the sport that Prince loves the most?
“I love all three for different reasons, but I have to say that if I had to choose, soccer comes first. I think soccer is my best sport and I’ve accomplished more with it as far as making provincial teams is concerned – I’ve played for KZN teams since grade 8 and this year I hope to be selected for KZN U19.”
* KZN Inland and KZN Coastal are combined under one provincial umbrella in soccer, as is rugby, while hockey and cricket have gone the KZN Inland and KZN Coastal route. And unlike provincial schoolboy rugby, hockey and cricket, soccer is U19.
Every schoolboy sportsman needs support structures and when asked the question Prince pointed to his family in the first instance. “My parents and sisters have been a big help in supporting me, they come to watch me play and it makes me proud to play in front of them.”
Apart from his SCC coaches, a coach in soccer who has had the most influence on Prince is Olwethu Ntlahla .
“When I was in grade 6 at Piet Retief Primary School, Mr Ntlahla taught me the basics of football, how to read the game – he gave me the best foundation I could have hoped for.”
An influential basketball mentor? “Mr (Darren) Holcomb and his first team assistant coach Mr Ayanda Shange. I didn’t know a lot about basketball, it was the newest of the three first team sports I play, and I didn’t have the solid foundation of the basics in me as I had with soccer and rugby.
“So there was quite a bit to learn, catch-up training and basketball game and skills education to do. Mr Holcomb and Mr Shange always found the time to show me the finer points of the game and were always there to answer my questions about aspects of the game that I wasn’t sure of.”
Prince was pretty specific on the key personnel who piloted his soccer and basketball education to the greatest degree, but when asked about specific coaches on the rugby front it brought a frown of sorts.
“That is a very tough one to answer. A number of rugby coaches have had a big influence on my rugby education. Since I first started, in mini-rugby at the age of 9 or so there were a number of coaches at that stage of my rugby development and I am grateful to all of them, as well as to all the coaches I have had at Saints.”
As to his thoughts on St Charles College, this time the Prince answer evidently doesn’t require the slightest hint of careful thought.
“I love Saints.”
“SCC has taught me how to treat all of our people with the same respect, irrespective of where society might try and categorise them. St Charles College has also taught me to always place others before my own interests while at the same time holding my ground and being my own person when the situation demands that response.
“But most of all it is the sense of brotherhood you get here at Saints that is most precious to me. That sense of a shared bond, a common goal and an ideal that is worth preserving and enhancing is what makes my school so special.”
While the Prince of St Charles is a competent, hardworking scholar in the classroom and goes about his duties with a sense of responsibility, he is open-minded about possible career pursuits once his matric year is up in a few very short months’ time.
But, with the flash of a smile, he says, “I would love to go all-out in making a go at professional football.”
KZN10.com extends the best of best wishes to, Prince. May your dreams come true. Nice guys do finish first.