Sports Science Institute appoints new MD


When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. The relevance of these words, spoken by Benjamin Franklin, echo today more than ever, as one of the only certainties we all face daily is change. Change requires adaptability, but it also provides us with new opportunities, fresh insights and the drive to survive in a dynamic environment.

No stranger to this phenomenon, the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) has officially announced the appointment of its new managing director, and the commencement of a new operating model, in which SSISA and UCT’s Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM) cement their partnership and gear up to develop innovative services and products in the field of exercise science and sports medicine.

Moreover, it is part of the combined mission and vision of these institutions to maximise their reach and impact to improve the health and performance of all South Africans.

Twenty-one years ago, sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes and rugby legend Morne du Plessis had the vision to develop the SSISA; its mission being to improve the health and sporting performance of all South Africans through science. The successes have been multi-fold and diverse, with impacts felt at various levels – from individual lives to global policies and practices, and from the cardiac patient who obtained a second lease on life, to the Olympic Gold medallist, victorious against the fiercest competition.

After more than two decades, Mr Du Plessis will hand over the baton to the new MD, Dr Phathokuhle Zondi, in June. This comes a year after Professor Noakes handed over UCT’s ESSM baton to Professor Vicki Lambert, an internationally recognised scientist and researcher in the field of physical activity for health.

“I am confident that the legacy and future of this great institution is in extremely capable hands” Mr Du Plessis said.

Dr Zondi, who intends settling in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, said to be handed the baton of leadership of such an iconic institution was a “great privilege”.

“I am thrilled to be joining the SSISA family and look forward to building on the foundation laid by my predecessors. The cemented relationship between SSISA and UCT’s Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine is an exciting development, and I am confident it will better the output of the institute both in terms of research, and services offered to athletes and the community at large”.

A medical doctor, sports physician and MBA graduate, Dr Zondi has an array of diverse experience that will help her fill the very large shoes of her predecessor.

She has clinical experience as Chief Medical Officer for Team South Africa at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Medical Officer at the 2012 London Olympic Games and 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

She has also been involved with World Rugby at various levels, notably as a Senior Medical Educator, and as the Tournament Team Physician at the Dubai Sevens Series since 2013.

She consults for SA Rugby as a Sports Physician for national teams and in local tournaments, and has also worked for SAFA as Team Doctor for the female national teams.

This has afforded Dr Zondi management experience heading multidisciplinary units that specialise in medical management and performance enhancement for elite and recreational athletes.

She is also committed to developing young professionals and mentors young students and professionals who show leadership and academic potential.

Married with one child, Dr Zondi always tries to keep a balance in her life. She enjoys travelling with her family, and as an “athlete” enjoys running, triathlons and anything that involves speed, skill and a healthy dose of competition.

Needless to say, these skills will serve her well as she helps us build and ignite our SSISA brand, leads us into as yet unchartered waters and helps us reach new heights.

“SSISA’s success will be determined by its ability to adapt and excel, from one generation to the next as the baton is handed over. Change is never easy, but managed well, it’s also how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Our team is dynamic, inspired and ready to take SSISA to the next level of performance,” Dr Zondi said.