SA Rugby President, Mr Mark Alexander, and Springbok Women’s coach, Stanley Raubenheimer, paid tribute to Springbok Women’s and Imbokodo strength and conditioning coach, Sandile Sibeko, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 42 years old.
Sibeko joined the Springbok Women’s team in 2019 and played an integral part in their preparation for the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup – which doubled up as the qualifier for the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand – as well as their local Test matches against Spain and Scotland later that season.
In 2020 he played a vital role in keeping the players fit with home-based conditioning programmes as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a national lockdown and the cancellation of the team’s rugby programme.
Sibeko was back in action on the field in the last two weeks at the team’s first training camp of the year, which kicked off in Stellenbosch recently as they stepped up their preparations with an eye on the Rugby World Cup, which runs from 18 September to 16 October in Auckland and Whangarei.
“This is a deeply sad day for the rugby fraternity,” said Mr Alexander.
“We have lost a passionate and dedicated rugby man and one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country.
“Sandile’s work ethic, the professionalism with which he dealt with the players and his management team, and his larger than life personality made him a key figure at SA Rugby and in the Springbok Women’s team.
“I’d like to extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, colleagues at SA Rugby, and the Springbok Women’s team for this massive loss. His passing has left a big void both on and off the field.”
Raubenheimer also extended his condolences to a “friend and brother” and saying: “Sandile was the heartbeat of the team (the Springbok Women).
“He kept everything together for us, which allowed every other team member to do their jobs effectively. This is a tragic loss, and it will take time for us to recover from it.”
The coach added: “We will mourn his loss as a team in the next few days, and when we return to the field, we will ensure that we give our best at training for him. We will also dedicate the Rugby World Cup to him.”
Sibeko spent some time at the Centre for Sports Science (CSS) in India, where he was also involved in lecturing for the BSc degree (Exercise & Sports Science), as well as the MD Sports Medicine postgraduate degree classes at the Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research.