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There have been many inspirational sporting moments in this year’s Rugby World Cup. However, one that comes off the field is that of 18-year-old Qaphela Gobodo from Paarl in the Western Cape, who against all odds survived being set alight for his love of rugby.

Qaphela is travelling outside of South Africa for the first time, to Japan on an all-expense paid trip as a guest of HEINEKEN South Africa, where he will watch a game he is passionate about and has played for most of his young life.

At the age of 15, Qaphela was awarded a scholarship for his prowess on the rugby field. However, his burgeoning career as a rugby player came to a devastating halt when his schoolmates set him alight at school. Qaphela survived the gruesome attack, and after 20 surgeries to repair the damages following third-degree burn wounds, he is back to playing rugby and has found his calling as a motivational speaker.

HEINEKEN South Africa came to know of the young man’s plight from social media, where a good Samaritan Ms. Nthabeleng Likotsi was raising awareness about his story and lobbying for support to make his rugby related dreams come true and has undertaken to take him to Japan to see the RWC in person!

“Qaphela’s story really inspired us; this young man has experienced much adversity, but refuses to give up or let his circumstances get him down,” says Millicent Maroga, Corporate Affairs Director at HEINEKEN SA.

“He might not be on the field in this Rugby World Cup, but we hope the opportunity to watch his rugby heroes battle it out on the sport’s biggest stage will inspire him to have the courage to pursue all his ambitions,” says Maroga.

Qaphela will watch both the semi-finals where the strong Springboks take on Wales, and the epic battle between New Zealand and England. 

Heineken®, the world’s most premium beer, is the worldwide partner for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, and also covered Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017.  Heineken® has enjoyed a close association with rugby for over 20 years. This partnership compliments Heineken®’s other unique global platforms; Formula One, UEFA Champions League and James Bond.