Cloudius Sagandira is one of a large number of Madibaz Sport members who have combined sporting and academic excellence during their time at Nelson Mandela University.
The Madibaz football star recently graduated with a doctorate in chemistry, joining a total of 70 student-athletes who obtained their qualifications at the university’s graduation ceremonies in December and April.
Among other high-profile student-athletes who graduated were ace swimming twins Alard and Alaric Basson and athletics star Ischke Senekal, all of whom have represented South Africa.
Sagandira said he embraced the challenges he faced in the lecture halls and on the sports fields.
He added that the best piece of advice he received was that “you should never settle for less.”
“That really helped me to focus and I also tried to keep things in perspective,” said the former football captain.
“Whenever I achieve something really good, I always remember that I am not the first or the last to do it, and someone, somewhere has done it even better.
“I always want to find ways to improve, always be hungry and let humility lead the way as I follow.”
The demanding work he put in during his extensive laboratory research was balanced by the release he received on the training ground.
“After a heavy day indoors I used to refresh at soccer training in the evening,” said Sagandira.
“That was a very important routine for me to keep myself fresh and energised.”
Shot put and discus exponent Senekal has qualified with an honours degree in education and said her varsity career combined her love for children and her passion for sport.
“Neither was more important than the other so I decided I would do both to the best of my abilities even if it meant less sleep for me,” said the Uitenhage-based athlete.
She added that the support she received from the university structures had been crucial during her time there.
“The education department allowed me time off to pursue my sporting career in the knowledge that it would be my responsibility to catch up with any work missed.
“Similarly, Madibaz Sport was understanding in allowing me off some evening events to catch up on my academic commitments, so that was very important.”
The Basson swimming twins, who are doing postgraduate degrees in construction management, said finding a balance between work and play was essential to succeeding at university.
“My advice to first-years is to take time ‘not just to plant the mind but to also water the mind’,” said Alard.
“As a student it’s so easy to get yourself caught up in study stress and pressures that you forget to take a breath or a mental break.
“Taking time out to relax, and feeding your mind positive thoughts before taking on the next task, is crucial.”
Alaric said a focus on doing well in both fields helped him to manage the challenges he faced.
“It was never possible for me to really enjoy the ‘varsity life’ to the fullest, but my desire to achieve in both kept me motivated,” he said.
“Having achieved both in my sport and academically over the past few years has been rewarding and all the sacrifices have paid off and still are.”
Madibaz deputy director of sport Riaan Osman said they prided themselves on the holistic development of their student-athletes.
“We are thankful to the various departments at the university with whom we collaborate to ensure our elite student-athletes achieve success in their academics,” he said.
“We provide access to online digital platforms via the University Blended Learning initiatives, plus daily monitoring of their academic progress.
“If any red flags are identified, we intervene by providing tutors for the students to ensure they will ultimately graduate in their studies.”