Rugby legend remains tough against Covid-19

Broadness Cona

Langa rugby legend Broadness Cona is battling the novel coronavirus at Groote Schuur Hospital after testing positive two weeks ago.

The 73-year-old is urging the community to take heed of the government’s advice and lockdown regulations as these were meant to help stop the spread of the virus.

When Vukani contacted him on Wednesday morning, his first words were: “I want to appeal to my people to take this serious, it’s very deadly I can tell you.”

Mr Cona said he went to see a doctor because he was feeling weak and after he was screened and tested, he was immediately admitted to hospital.

“I am very thankful to the doctors and nurses who worked on me, I was giving up hope but I feel much better,” he said.

At the time of going to press, South Africa had 24 264 positive cases identified, 12 741 recoveries and 524 deaths. Of those numbers, the Western Cape is the epicentre of the virus, with 15 756 positive cases, 7 844 recoveries and 357 deaths.

“Keep the distance, wash your hands and stay at home otherwise we cannot win this war,” Mr Cona said.

He said not even family members can visit him and he wished to reach them via Vukani to inform them that he was doing well.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mcebisi Skwatsha, wished Mr Cona a speedy recovery.

“He is a fighter with a big heart. A committed sportsman who championed non-racial sport during apartheid times. A devoted rugby man who was bestowed a Springbok blazer at the dawn of democracy, recognising the fact that were it not for apartheid, he would have long been a Springbok.

“He went on to lead administration at the White Spurs Football Club in Gugulethu. Never tiring in sports activities, I am proud to mention him as one of the regular walkers at the keep fit walk I established over two years ago: Walking with Macebo. Ever there at 6am when we start in spite of his advance age.

“As I wish him well and call on our people to heed the message: wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitise and stay at home.”

Mr Cona was born in Simon’s Town and grew up in its Luyolo township. His parents, Morgan and Mariah, worked at the Simon’s Town dockyard; Mariah as a cleaner and Morgan as a stevedore.

In 1965, the Cona family was forcefully removed from Simon’s Town because of apartheid’s Group Areas Act and dumped in Gugulethu. Ironically, this political act set the wheels in motion for Mr Cona’s rugby career.

Gugulethu did not have a rugby club at the time so he became a member of the Flying Eagles Rugby Club in Nyanga.

Other rugby greats, like former Saarb captain Thompson Magcala, encouraged the rookie to specialise as a tighthead prop because of his strong upper body.

After the dismantling of Saarb in 1971, he played under the banner of the South African Rugby Association (Sara) from 1971 until 1976. After the 1976 political unrest in South Africa, he was part of the exodus from Sara to the South African Rugby Union (the then non-racial Saru rugby structure). His beloved Flying Eagles split into two clubs, divided between rival rugby structures. Mr Cona would play for the Western Province Rugby Board, an affiliate of Saru.

He was selected for the Saru invitation team that played against the Saru national team in 1978 and 1984. He retired in 1986, aged 39.

Mr Cona married Nonceba and they had two sons. After his retirement from the game as a player, he stayed involved through the Lagunya Rugby Club, where he assisted his long-time friend and coach of Lagunya, Norman Mbiko.

However, the bitterness between erstwhile teammates because of the National Sport Council/South African Council of Sport ideological battle became frustrating and he left the game soon after.

As the family provider, Mr Cona worked for the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service for 45 years, first as a driver and later as transport co-ordinator..

He retired in 2007 and has since immersed himself in serving his community through the South African National Civic Organisation structures in Gugulethu

Additional information from the SA Rugby website.