University of Johannesburg student Shandre Hoffman was crowned Miss UJ Varsity Cup when the round-robin phase of the rugby competition drew to a close on Monday. At the crowning ceremony at the UJ Stadium in Johannesburg, the industrial sociology masters student received the top accolade, with Mohau Matinketsa the first princess and Mavelous Mhlanga the second princess. The 22-year-old Hoffman, who lives in Eikenhof in the south of Johannesburg, said she had entered the Miss UJ Varsity Cup contest as she was a strong advocate of social change. "I feel it is our responsibility to help better the lives of those around us," she said. "I believe that if I have the privilege to be associated with this prestigious platform, I will be able to make a real difference on a larger scale. "Secondly, I think sport builds character to live by. It was through my own engagement in sport that I learnt the importance of teamwork. You are only as strong as your weakest link and I realised that it is beneficial to build up those around you." A personal experience in 2017 also allowed Hoffman to learn how to handle the tough things in life. "I had to go through hormone replacement therapy and this caused me to gain weight and break out in acne," recalled Hoffman. "My confidence took a hard knock and there were times when I didn't even want to leave my house, but I learned to love myself in spite of my flaws. "I saw this as an opportunity to continue to grow and love myself, while also spreading the message of body positivity to others." She added that former UJ rugby star and current Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi stood out for her as an example to others. "He was told at a young age he would not make it as a rugby player, yet he still chose to pursue his passion and worked hard to become the success he is," she said. "In life, rejection is inevitable, but Aphiwe's grit on and off the field can be a source of inspiration to pursue your dreams, despite the hardships you may face." While her long-term ambition is to become a professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg, Hoffman is already trying to make a difference. "I have benefited immensely from the opportunities afforded to me by UJ," she said. "As a result, I have undertaken an outreach programme with the rural youth of the informal settlement of Weiler's Farm. "I take stationery and books to the youth, and share study tips with them in an effort to keep them in school so that one day they might be able to go to university and have an education that changes their lives, as it did mine. "One day, I hope to start a non-profit organisation that provides staples to students in need." UJ Sport Events manager Niahm Faherty paid tribute to all 10 contestants in the competition. "I am so proud of each and every one of these ladies," she said. "People take for granted how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone and this is definitely unknown territory for a lot of these ladies. "They have gone above and beyond with community service and I could not be more proud. "Miss UJ Varsity Cup will be our official ambassador for the year, but each of these ladies is an ambassador within their own right and they epitomise what UJ stands for." Caption: Shandre Hoffman was crowned Miss UJ Varsity Cup at the crowning ceremony in Johannesburg on Monday. With her are first princess Mohau Matinketsa (left) and second princess Mavelous Mhlanga (right). Photo: Kimara Singh

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