LITTLE BIG MAN
The Proteas’ Langa-born, hard-hitting rising star takes a busy sporting life in his stride with a quiet life off the pitch
This week fans wept as Temba Bavuma carved his name into the history books, uniting South Africa in cheer as he scored what may well become the country’s most famous test century. On Tuesday, Bavuma’s parents, Vuyo and Phumza, and his sister Phila were at Cape Town’s Newlands stadium as it exploded with cheers of “Temba, Temba, Temba ... Bavuuuuma!” during the second test match against England.
Also wiping away tears was his girlfriend of four years, Phila Lobi, an accountancy student and maths teacher.
Congratulations rippled across social media, with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula calling the century “a proud moment” and “a great display of excellence” on Twitter.
But nowhere was the joy felt more than in Bavuma’s childhood neighbourhood of Langa, Cape Town, where shouts poured from homes as people watched on TV.
On Thursday, the 25-year-old welcomed City Press into his late grandmother’s red-brick house in Langa’s Rubusana Avenue.
Bavuma grew up in this house – where his aunt now lives – and honed his skills playing cricket in the street outside.
He recalls how, as a child, he had his mother worried when he sneaked out to watch his uncles bowl and bat at the Langa Cricket Club, about a kilometre down the road.
Bavuma’s mother, a manager at Royale Energy SA, and his father, a retired newspaper managing editor, now live in Bryanston. He shares a house with Lobi in Fourways.
When visiting Cape Town, he stays at his late grandmother’s house in a flatlet at the back.
Inside the quiet home with its velvet burgundy lounge suite and red box TV, the hype of his triumph felt far removed.
“It is quite daunting,” said Bavuma, referring to the gravity South Africans attached to his 100 runs. which, along with Proteas team-mate Hashim Amla’s double century, helped to save Tuesday’s match.
“I am not big on social media, but my girlfriend told me about the comments and the emotions. It’s a pressure I want to embrace and take into the future with me.
“I will take it game by game – and hopefully contribute more positivity,” he said, under a whirring ceiling fan with Adele’s hit song Hello playing in the background.
Dressed in floral board shorts, Bavuma said he was just back from a quick Clifton beach break with Lobi. “We just needed to escape the madness for a bit, but we came back; the wind was too strong on the beach,” he said.
The couple met in Langa. Lobi has since joined him in Johannesburg, where she teaches maths at the Leap Science and Maths School in Diepsloot.
“Phila is from Langa, too. I knew of her before we got together, and it’s been going well ever since.
“We support each other and she understands cricket,” said Bavuma, fingering a ring on a silver chain around his neck.
Off the cricket pitch, Bavuma enjoys a quiet life: evenings with Lobi, braaiing meat, going to restaurants, and intimate deejaying sessions. His face lights up while discussing his hobby – music. “I play House music; it is soulful and relaxing. It’s something I do to get away and unwind, as it puts me in a completely different mood.”
He says he plays only at home parties to friends and family, not at clubs.
Another lesser-known fact about Bavuma is that he loves table tennis. As a teenager, he cracked the Under-13 Western Cape team. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says. But over the years, it was cricket that won his heart. Langa is renowned for its cricketing culture. Fellow star players Thami Tsolekile and Malusi Siboto grew up a stone’s throw away from Bavuma’s family home.
At the Langa Cricket Club, signed-and-framed shirts once worn by Tsolekile and Siboto are displayed inside the club house. They are waiting for one from Bavuma.
The club’s head coach, Simon Saichele, runs a cricket training programme for about 200 local youngsters, including 18 girls.
He says they have worked hard to spot talented players early at the township’s five primary and four high schools. “I first saw Temba playing in the street when he was about three years old. Over the years, one could see his potential grow.
“On Tuesday, people were watching the game on televisions all over Langa. There is a lot of pride and so much excitement among the young people.”
Bavuma credits receiving a scholarship to attend top private school the South African College Schools High School in Newlands as the opportunity that allowed him to refine his game.
“I was very lucky. I mean, there were kids with more talent than me, but I got to go to really good schools.”
Bavuma started playing for the Gauteng Lions in 2010 and played his first test for the Proteas against the West Indies in 2014. Despite his small stature – he is 1.67m tall – he is known to hit the ball hard and fast.
He said he would return home to Johannesburg tomorrow. The Proteas start playing the third test against England at the Wanderers on Thursday.
RAISING THE GAME Temba Bavuma celebrates his maiden test 100 against England at Newlands this week
TRAINING GROUND Langa Cricket Club coach
Mbulelo Nkomo (29) shows Zenani Kraai (15) and
other young hopefuls how it’s done