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Local sheep shearers prove they’re the best in the world and encourage others to ‘go for it’

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SHEEP shearers Bonile Rabela and Zwelamakhosi Mbuweni gave South Africans something to smile about when they bagged top honours on the global stage in Scotland. These two are still bouncing off the walls as they soak up their huge achievement, writes Sinenhlanhla Mncwango on Food for Mzansi.

South Africa shone brightly at this year’s Golden Shears World Sheep Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Scotland when Mzansi’s blade shearing duo, Bonile Rabela and Zwelamakhosi Mbuweni, bagged gold medals in the Blade Shearing Team Division.

“We are so excited and so happy about the win. It’s almost unbelievable,” Rabela excitedly told Food For Mzansi.

“Everyone at home, our friends and team members are so happy as well. We’re just proud to have done something like this.”

The winners of the Golden Shears World Sheep Shearing and Woolhandling Championships were announced at the Royal Highland Show on Sunday, 25 June. Rabela also took home a silver medal for the Individual Blade Shearing Division.

Getting ready

New to the competition, Mbuweni said he was nervous at first but soon calmed down and focused on winning the prize.

“I calmed down because I realised that everything is just like how it is here at home. I saw there wasn’t much of a difference,” he said.

Mbuweni said it took them two weeks to prepare. They spent some time in Scotland to get a feel of how things work and familiarise themselves with the breed of sheep.

“We also got very good support there. Even though there was a language barrier, we managed to communicate with them a little bit. Other than that, I’m happy and I still can’t believe it,” Mbuweni said.

From bronze to gold

Not new to the competition, Rabela has won a bronze medal in previous championships in France. He believes the three years of experience gained gave him the confidence and momentum to do well in the competition.

“I wasn’t scared since it was my second time competing at this level and I was really prepared for it,” he said.

Coming home, the duo was overwhelmed by a chorus of congratulatory messages but the opportunity to finally reconnect with family and friends brought them the most happiness.

“We are happy to be home to finally see our families who are happy and excited for us. We had trouble communicating with them because of network issues, but we eventually came right after connecting to their Wifi,” said Rabela.

Growing sheep industry

Meanwhile, South African Sheep Shearing Federation (SASSF) president Herman Archer said he is very proud and privileged that the World Championship title is back in South Africa.

“I think it is a positive thing. The whole country is behind and in support of sheep shearers and, I think every young and upcoming sheep shearer in South Africa wants to be in the footsteps of those two gentlemen.

“I think it is a positive spinoff of the young guys coming in and them being world champions. I think everyone needs a role model and those two guys are the perfect role models for young people coming in,” he said.

Tough competition

CEO of The Southern African Agri Initiative Theo De Jager is proud to have South African sheep farming come out on top when competing against competitive shearing countries.

“I have always said that South African counts among the best team of nations in terms of agriculture, but it’s not only because of our farmer’s skills and resilience, but it is both the upstream and downstream value chains. It’s because of the quality of the farmhands that we have and this victory has proven that,” De Jager told Food For Mzansi.

The winners were competing against the toughest in the world, he said. The New Zealanders were there too, and they have shearing schools, De Jager remarked.

“The Australians also train their teams all year long. They have a dedicated capacity to prepare. The Argentines were there and then two of our guys came and showed them how it’s done, we are so proud of them.”

Looking ahead

The future looks bright for the sheep shearing duo as they look forward to the next championships in 2026, which will take place in Masterton, New Zealand.

Rabela believes sheep shearing is a journey that young people can branch into and enjoy.

“We’ll be preparing for 2026 so that we can represent South Africa and lift the flag high again. We want people to know what we’re doing and that we really do love it.

“Any young person who wants to be a sheep shearer should really go for it and I am happy that they would want to.  They should just continue and push themselves,” he said.

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