When a teenager impresses his competitors on the track, you know he’s on the yellow brick road to greatness
Samkeliso “Sam Sam” Thubane comes across as a shy and laconic young man – but not on the spinning track. “Eh, well, what can I say?” says the 18-year-old when asked how he feels about winning e.tv’s So You Think You Can Spin competition. Thubane’s reserved character belies an adrenaline junkie who has been participating in the car-spinning sport – made popular by amagintsa (gangsters) over the past 35 years – since he was 12 years old in 2010.
He pocketed a cool R250 000 last month after his amazing skills gathered him the most public votes ahead of 300 older contestants from all over the country. But such a feat – and the fact that he is now the championship titleholder after spinning became recognised as a national sport by Motorsport South Africa in 2014 – has not made him boastful.
The teenager from Mahushu village outside the safari town of Hazyview in Mpumalanga is a household name in his province.
He has been attracting crowds at spinning competitions in various parts of the country because of his age and mastery of a box BMW – popularly know as a gusheshe in township slang.
“I entered the competition to win it,” said Thubane, “and I’ve always told myself that I must always work hard, and bring something new and spectacular in every event that I participate in.
“I did all I could and left everything in the hands of the country to vote and decide.”
Ernest Nkosi, the owner of competition rights holder Monarchy Group which ran the competition, says Thubane won the competition for his spectacular performance in episode 11 on home turf at Numbi Gate Spin City. The Numbi area is the epicentre of spinning in the province, so it is no surprise that the newest champion comes from that part of the world.
Thubane showed his mastery: he got out of his gusheshe and left it to spin on its own, and then got behind the wheel of another gusheshe which he then spun around the other one. He then returned to it and performed amazing stunts – standing on it and getting in and out of the car while it spun on its own.
Even his competitors could not hide their admiration, including Limpopo’s Feroz Cassim, who said before the Top 8 round: “My biggest competitor is Sam Sam. He’s got the skill and knows what he’s doing.”
Thubane said he started his spin career playing with and spinning quad bikes. His father Myboet, who owns transport and construction businesses, was into spinning cars and the young man developed an interest.
“I remember the first time I tried to spin a car. I couldn’t control it and I didn’t know where it was going,” he said. Thubane then practised some more under the guidance of experienced Team Numbi members. He attended his first event at Rocky’s Drift outside White River in 2010.
“Even then everybody was waiting expectantly to see me spin because they had heard about the 12-year-old boy [who spins cars],” Thubane said.
Thubane is studying towards a Business Management Diploma at Boston College in Mbombela. His wish is to see the sport growing and sponsors pumping in money.
Nkosi said that So You Think You Can Spin was the first televised spinning competition. It attracted just under a million viewers per episode between October and December last year.
“It was a good six years in the making. From here we can only hope that we will secure more money and grow it.”
Thubane intends participating in “drifting” in future, because it is more “international”.
Drifting differs from spinning in that it focuses on sliding the vehicle in a number of different directions, instead of spinning it around.
But in the meantime he will still focus on spinning because “I love the sport and do it for fun”.
SPIN DOCTOR Samkeliso ‘Sam Sam’ Thubane got out of one spinning car, and got into a second car and spun it around the still spinning first car, winning the admiration of everyone watching