23 December 2022 | Story Jóhann Thormählen | Photo Supplied
Kopano Melesi
Kopano Melesi has been involved with teams such as the USSA U21, South African U20 and U23 sides, and works at the Mahd Sports Academy in Saudi Arabia.

They were ambitious students, in the same study group, and graduated together at the UFS. Only a few years later, three friends from the class of 2015 are in charge of the strength and conditioning of three top sports teams in South Africa.

The former classmates Bongani Tim Qumbu (Springboks), Kopano Melesi (Bafana Bafana), and Tumi Masekela (Proteas men’s cricket) are making sure the best in the country is in shape to compete internationally.

And the trio are not the only sport scientists from their class to excel. Others like Obakeng Molopyane, who did Wayde van Niekerk’s conditioning, are also part of this special group. It all started while doing their honours in Human Movement Science and being mentored by some of the best in the business, like Prof Derik Coetzee, who was the conditioning coach when the Boks won the 2007 World Cup.

Melesi says Prof Coetzee played a big role in their development as they had a good road map to follow. “He exposed us to things in the professional world that a normal student could only dream of. We worked with national teams, domestic and international professional teams.”

“When we went out there, we were not unsure about our abilities and capabilities to execute.” According to Masekela, they were keen students and had great UFS lecturers.

“We would meet up most afternoons after lectures to break down the lesson that we had until we understood exactly what the lesson was about.”

“This included digging into the history of how certain theories came about, then debating on our own thoughts on the topic,” he says.

All three gained experience while still studying. Qumbu worked with the Kovsie Young Guns and Irawas, Melesi with the Kovsie soccer team, and Masekela with the UFS cricket team.

Melesi says early exposure, through ‘volunteering’ at local teams, is key if you want to reach the top.

“I would advise aspiring students to engage with their lecturers as much as possible in class, as they have a lot of practical knowledge about sport science that you will not read in a book,” says Masekela.




Kopano Melesi Tumi Masekela Bongani Tim Qumbu

Kopano Melesi has been involved with teams such as the USSA U21, South African U20 and U23 sides, and works at the Mahd Sports Academy in Saudi Arabia.


Tumi Masekela played cricket for the University of the Free State, Northerns, the Knights and Titans. He is now the strength and conditioning coach of the Proteas.


Bongani Tim Qumbu (left) worked his way to the top. He now looks after some of the best rugby players in SA like the Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. Here they are at a Bok training session.

Photo: Supplied Photo: Cricket South Africa Photo: Supplied


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