Nyanga phakama

Former Black Springbok captain, Norman Mbiko, with his accolades and memorabilia.

Former rugby player and scrumhalf and the only living Black Springbok captain, Norman “Nhonho” Mbiko, was applauded for his involvement and contribution to the sport by his friends and former players at his home in Nyanga on Sunday.

The top athlete was recognised and awarded by the national Department of Sport, Arts and Culture on Saturday March 13 in Pretoria in an event hosted to celebrate the achievements of athletes and administrators from a range of sports codes.

Friends, family members and former colleagues gathered at the Mbiko home on Sunday March 14 to celebrate his achievements with him.

He is described by many as not only a player, but a good coach, administrator and a father. He also had a role as a technical advisor to Springbok team’s manager, Morné du Plessis in 1995

Mr Mbiko is the first Springbok to emerge from Nyanga, and is the pride of the community.

He landed in the province on Sunday after the event in Pretoria and Vukani visited him at his home where memorabilia is proudly displayed around his living room. Photographs of his international games and achievements frame the walls.

Seated, the now frail former captain of the black team smiles as he looks back to his playing days. He said was happy to be recognised although he was the first to admit that the award was long overdue. “It was postponed for three years. But I am happy that finally I was recognised. I never thought I would live to see this but it has happened,” he told Vukani with a smile.

He said in his playing days, he always gave his best. He is rugby and rugby is him. Mr Mbiko has a small complaint though about today’s players: “Today’s rugby is too scientific, anyone can play. You have small-bodied players but they are skilful. But I am happy you have players like Siya Kolisi playing today and leading rugby,” he added.

On awards, he said they were well organised. He was happy to see athletes from different parts of the country too.

To celebrate with him at his home were former players and sport administrators like Thabo Tutu from the province’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Kaizer Sikunana, Andile Kilani, Ntombizanele Ben and his former playing mate, Broady Cona.

Mr Cona said his former teammate has led by example in everything he was involved in. He remembered how he used to play soccer too but all along he was a rugby player. “It is a well-deserved honour. He was an outstanding player. I remember I wanted to lure him to play soccer with me but instead he lured me to play rugby. He taught me rugby. We played together for over 10 years. Nhonho always gave his best. He had skills, leadership skills and was very dedicated,” he recounted.

Mr Cona said he learnt most of what he knows about rugby from Mr Mbiko. He said he would be forever grateful for the contribution he has made to sport. “I am delighted for him to get this award, which I personally feel is long overdue. This man deserves much better. If it was not for apartheid and its ugly laws, he would have been a national player. He was outstanding. The award seemed a far-fetched dream but I am excited to see it happen while he is still alive,” he said delightedly.

Former colleagues and friends of Norman Mbiko came to to his Nyanga home to celebrate with him on Sunday March 14. From right are Broady Cona, Andile Kilani, Ntombizanele Ben, Kaizer Sikunana and Thabo Tutu from the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

Mr Mbiko’s friends said they are pushing for Nyanga Stadium to be renamed in his honour.

They also feel that he should get an award such as the Order of Ikhamanga. which is granted by the president of South Africa for achievements in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism, and sports (which were initially recognised by the Order of the Baobab).But for now, Mr Mbiko is happy to be part of history.