Giants prop Khauhelo Raphepheng is happy with the strides rugby has made since the Federation of Lesotho Rugby was launched three years ago.
The 30-year-old fitness enthusiast who is also into boxing, taekwondo and football, says he eventually settled on rugby because of his strapping physique.
“My sporting journey started way back when I was a child and living in Khubetsoana. I was into boxing, taekwondo and football at the time and continued with these sporting codes when I moved to Koalabata with my parents in 2000,” he told the Sunday Express.
Raphepheng, who is currently living in Sea Point, says he later fell in love with bodybuilding on moving to Khubetsoana High School.
“I started lifting weights when I was at Khubetsoana High, and eventually, developed this love for rugby. In 2012, we come up with the idea of forming a rugby team which we called Maseru Kings.
“This was the same year that the Federation of Lesotho Rugby was formed, but I couldn’t be part of it because I already had too much on my plate.
“However, Maseru Kings were my first team but we had to change the name from Kings to Giants after the team split last year.”
According to Raphepheng, his physique was one of the reasons he found himself in rugby.
“Like I said, when I arrived in Khubetsoana, I started weight-training and it was no longer possible for me to play these other sports because I was now heavy. But because I still wanted to be involved in field sports, I started to have interest in rugby because of my physique.
“I am really passionate about sport so I just couldn’t live without it, hence I ended up in rugby.”
Raphepheng is happy with how his sporting career has panned out, although he still has other parts of his dream to fulfill.
“We always live to chase dreams and I think I have achieved some, as far as sport is concerned. One of those dreams was to be in the national rugby team, which I have managed to achieve. Now I’m a personal trainer at Lehakoe, which is one more dream fulfilled,” said Raphepheng.
Asked if he foresees himself playing rugby professionally outside the country, Raphepheng said this was no longer possible because age was no longer on his side.
“I am 30 now, and most teams want players who are below 26 years of age. So I am not going to focus on that because unfortunately, I started playing rugby late. One of the reasons why this happened was because rugby was not being taken seriously four/five years ago in this country.”
The second born in a family of three, Raphepheng says he is enjoying working as a personal trainer and on rugby development programmes.
“Like I mentioned before that I am a personal trainer, I am also coaching youngsters who want to be serious rugby players. The key to successful athletes is a good foundation so I have been working together with the Federation of Lesotho Rugby in grassroots development and trying to see that we groom young players from primary and high schools.
“I am also helping some of our new rugby teams with their coaching.”
According to Raphepheng, rugby has been well-received by the nation although he also believes it could have realised even more with better administration.
“Since rugby was formally introduced in this country in 2012, the response has been quite positive. We now have more teams in our league, while we also have two teams playing in the Free State, and this means the sport is really catching on.
“However, the biggest problem we have is administration and I have learned that this is some kind of cancer found in all sporting codes and not only rugby.
“But apart from that, I think programmes the rugby federation has been holding are succeeding although there are still some hiccups here and there,” said Raphepheng.
Compared to other countries, Raphepheng says Lesotho rugby is still lagging behind.
“Rugby was introduced recently in Lesotho, so compared with other countries, we are a little behind. But again, we are coming up nicely and with time, I can see us catching up and becoming even better than the other nations,” said the father-of-two.
Raphepheng also said one of the other reasons behind lack of sporting progress in Lesotho was infrastructure.
“The biggest challenge to sport in this country is lack of facilities. A good example is that very few people are privileged to access a gym of Lehakoe’s quality, yet sport, especially rugby, needs people who are fit. So how are we expected to produce good athletes in this kind of environment?
“I think it is about time that our government did something about these problems; the authorities must find a way of making the corporate sector invest in sport.
“We should now be moving from amateur to professional to enable those who are gifted in sport to earn a living through their God-given talent.
“In the meantime, I advise kids to be part of sport not because of money, but for the love of it because eventually, I believe it will pay-off. If they put money first, then they are going to be disappointed and pull out when they have invested so much of their time in it. The other advise I give them is they should be disciplined, and work hard because these are the ingredients for success,” said Raphepheng, who holds a diploma from the South African International Institute of Fitness Training (specialist personal trainer), among other qualifications.
“It is important for athletes to complete their studies first because we are living in a very unfortunate country where sport alone cannot sustain one’s life.”
Name: Khauhelo Raphepheng
Date of birth: 28 June 1985
Place of birth: Maseru
Previous teams: Maseru Kings
Current team: Giants
Team supported: Cheaters (Free State, South Africa)
Favourite meal: Anything with meat
Favorite music: Hip-hop
Dream car: Ford Ranger
Role model: All Blacks (New Zealand) captain Richie McCaw
Marital status: Married