With a name like Khaya Majola, it is easy to get sidetracked from the Sharks rugby player and obsess instead with whether he is related to the Eastern Cape sporting royalty that gave us his late namesake Khaya and former Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald.

To do that – incidentally “there is no relation, whatsoever” – would be to overlook a player with a fair bit of pedigree himself, having played for Sharks teams at under-16, under-18 and the SA Under-20 side which won the Junior World Championships in 2012.

Yet for all that, getting into the Sharks’ Super Rugby has been difficult, with the broad shoulders of the likes of the Du Preez twins (Jean-Luc and Daniel), Tera Mtembu, Phillip van der Walt, Jacques Vermeulen and even lock Etienne Oosthuizen, who can deputise at blindside flank, blocking his path.

This is why to date he still has only two Super Rugby caps (from the 2015 season). But according to him, this is where the SuperSport Rugby Challenge comes in handy.

“I’ve always dreamt of playing for the Sharks and that came true when I made my Super Rugby debut in 2015,” he says. “There I felt I’d shown that I can play at that level. But at the moment I’m a fringe player and I’ll do anything to get back there, having a competition like the Rugby Challenge helps with trying to do that.”

Majola is something of an endangered species in that he plays openside flank, a position South African coaches are moving away from owing to the limits of being a smallish flanker whose main claim to fame is stealing ball, slowing down opposition ball, quickening up your team’s ball and conceding the occasional penalty for your efforts.

“I’m an openside in that I’m used on that side,” explains the 1.85m, 104kg Majola. “But I used to play No 8 and when I came to the Sharks they said I was too small, so I was only used as a six. But in my opinion I can play all three of the positions.

“As you can see guys like [traditional eighthmen] Philip van der Walt and Tera Mtembu are also playing six, so coaches have shifted away from playing the traditional openside – but I do back myself in all three positions. But it’s also about how the coaches want to play and you have to respect that.”

Looking at the Sharks XV’s Rugby Challenge season, which began with an upset defeat against Griquas and has picked up with two wins against the Griffons and the Leopards since then, Majola said the unexpected loss was thanks to a gung-ho approach.

“Against Griquas we said we wanted to play and we made quite a few mistakes and they capitalised on that. We have started playing in the right areas and everything has been coming together over the last two games.”

Playing against the Free State XV should be the real test of where they are, given that the Bloemfontein side has yet to win in all three of its games in the tournament and teams from that part of the country love nothing but to upset anything called Sharks.

But Majola isn’t overly concerned: “The thing is we know what they’re about, but we need to focus on ourselves. We mustn’t be stupid in our approach, we must keep the ball and execute our game plan.”