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

CityPress - - Front Page - TEMBA BAVUMA

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.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

RAIS­ING THE GAME Temba Bavuma cel­e­brates his maiden test 100 against Eng­land at New­lands this week

PHOTO: LEANNE STANDER

TRAIN­ING GROUND Langa Cricket Club coach

Mbulelo Nkomo (29) shows Ze­nani Kraai (15) and

other young hope­fuls how it’s done

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