The Vikings Christian Rugby Academy hosted its annual prize-giving ceremony at the Genesis Youth Centre Conference Room on Saturday.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Academy that has seen a number of changes over the years. It was begun as a community outreach programme of the Norwegian Settlers Church in an attempt to meet young South African men where their passions lie.
The sport of rugby was an obvious hook to get young men into a programme in which positive coaches, mentors, pastors, life coaches, and counsellors have a voice into the lives of young South African and international men.
In its decade of existence, the Vikings have seen years of great influx in its number of students and years where numbers were much smaller. The Academy has grown to have state-of-the-art facilities in which boys have housing in the form of cabins on the side lines of the Vikings rugby field. This past year, the Academy opened a recreational house with a fully-functional kitchen, lounge area and braai pit for the rugby students.
The 2016 prize-giving ceremony was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the past and commemorate where the Vikings are at today.
Sipho Lugalo won the prestigious Offshore Viking of the Year award, while Xolela Daniels was voted Vikings’ Viking of the Year. Kingsworth Gumede was named Lifeskills Student of the Year, Grant Watts earned the Best Achievement of the Year award and Tafadzwa Mtetoinba claimed the Incredible Hulk award.
Vikings Manager, Richard Harrell, said they were met with many challenges this year, which resulted in renewed perspective and purpose for the future.
“The boys have had an opportunity to grow on a personal level. Also, we were excited and proud to have a couple of our students play in the Under-20 Currie Cup. We also had a couple of our students invited to play internationally in Spain,” Harrell said.
This year, the Vikings were also able to send its first ever junior side to compete in an international sevens tournament in Ireland, where they finished second.
“We went expecting to just have an experience. When we started winning games, it was so exciting to see these young boys from South Africa get a taste of winning at an international level. We were very proud to be South African Vikings,” Harrell said.
The Academy drew even closer this year with the sudden death of one of their fellow Academy students. Even though in general the Academy boys develop very close friendships, the 2016 class became especially close because of the hardships they faced both on and off the rugby field.
“Because of the style of Academy the Vikings is, it lends itself towards developing close relationships with those who are participating in the same physical training programmes, games, life skills and much more.
“Any team that works together obviously develops close relationships, but when you are growing together that becomes even more apparent. The Vikings focus on the individuals’ growth and maturity, as well as the rugby.
“This year ended very differently than it started, with some changes being for the better, while others presented opportunities for growth. Changes are always difficult to navigate but we are hopeful these changes have set Vikings up for an even more impactful next 10 years,” Harrell said.