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Mongalo overcomes adversity to headline new generation of coaches

SPOTLIGHT: Joey Mongalo sees himself as part of a bigger picture emerging in South African rugby.

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The Sharks’ Currie Cup coach has done a sterling job over the last couple of months transforming the Durban side into a force in the domestic competition.

And he was rewarded by being named the Sharks’ senior defence coach ahead of the 2023/2024 United Rugby Championship season.

The Sharks have won their last seven consecutive matches in the Currie Cup and lead the standings by three points going into this Saturday’s final league game against Western Province in Cape Town.

Mongalo is doing his best not to think of the tantalising prospect of winning the domestic trophy in his first season as a head coach, and which would represent a remarkable story of triumph for a man who grew up in a location outside Brits in the North West, lost his father when he was still a young boy, and was raised by a single mother.

From that challenging start, Mongalo went on to play provincial cricket for the North West Under-11 and Under-13 teams, was deputy head boy of his primary school, captained the First cricket team at Pretoria Boys High School and also played First team rugby there, earned a bursary to study at the University of Pretoria and completed a Masters in Industrial Psychology.

From there he coached at the Lions followed by immense success and experience as an assistant coach at the Bulls in, amongst others, the United Rugby Championship before moving to the Sharks.

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So, this Currie Cup season represents the promise of a great personal triumph for Mongalo.

“There’s a new generation of coaches coming through. A new age group of coaches, which is exciting,” said Mongalo.

“You have Pieter Bergh at the Griquas, Bafana Nhleko with the SA Under-20 side, Mzwakhe Nkosi with the Lions – all of those men represent the next batch of coaches who need to be able to take over from the Jake Whites and John Dobsons of our game and continue the excellent work they have done.

“This is the third rugby environment I’ve been in in South Africa and you learn from every single one.

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“I’m privileged to have served under many head coaches such as Johan Ackermann, Swys de Buin, Jake White and Bafana Nhleko. All of these coaches have wonderful aspects about them, so to sit at their feet and learn and now take forward what I wanted when I finally held a head coach position myself is a great blessing for me.

“Having been privileged to win the Currie Cup twice with the Bulls as an assistant coach, it would be extremely special to do it with the Sharks as the man leading a team at the senior level for the first time. But there is still plenty of work to be done and the focus remains our next match.”

There’s no doubt that it’s been a remarkable journey for Mongalo and one which he feels is far from over as he seeks to inspire another generation after him.

“There could’ve been many opportunities in my own life to quit at any time, and it would’ve been understandable because the circumstances weren’t easy. But I hope I can show that if you use that adversity, you can look forward to more that can be done.

“I feel the story has to be so compelling that if there is another young Joey with a single mom out there, he doesn’t have to just dream about it but he can now look to a lived experience and follow somebody’s path no matter what his own circumstances are.”

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