Sport council honours unsung heroes

Seated are Norman Mbiko and his wife Ken Mbiko and the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Sports and Recreation, Beauty Dlulane at the gala dinner.

Nyanga Sport Council celebrated its sporting heroes at a glittering gala dinner at the Zolani multi-purpose centre on Saturday April 7.

Among those involved in sport – on and off the field-who were honoured, was the first Springbok to emerge from Nyanga, Norman “Nhonho” Mbiko, 73, who played rugby at the height of apartheid, when rugby was considered a white man’s sport.

Former rugby players and those who mentored him highlighted his courage, compassion, and personal responsibility.

“This is one of the highlights of my life,” Mr Mbiko told Vukani.

“This is rare because people are celebrated once they are no more. I am over the moon to see and hear people talking about me while I am alive.” Asked why he had chosen to play rugby, Mr Mbiko said he had grown up in Kraaifontein with “mostly coloured people”, who had introduced him to the game.

“They taught me the sport. But when I went to school in Langa, I played soccer. (But) the school master then took me off and sent me to the rugby team”

The former Langa High School pupil eventually made his mark on the rugby field and became popular as a scrum-half.

He played for the Black Western Province Rugby Union from the age of 19 until his retirement fromm the sport in 1979. At the height of apartheid, he was chosen as the captain of the Black Springbok team. “I was elected as captain of the Black Springboks to play against England in 1972. This is the day I still cherish. That day is engraved in my mind. Mind you, there was apartheid here and I was going to pay against white people. It was a dream come true to play against white people and lead as a captain, “ he said.

Nyanga Sports Council chairperson, Cecil Ngotya, commended the community of Nyanga for honouring Mr Mbiko while he was still alive. “For a long time, there were two black Springboks captains alive, one was in the Eastern Cape but he has since passed on. We thought we needed to do something about our own, that is Mr Mbiko.

“He was such a great player and an inspiration to many. He deserves better. For us as the community of Nyanga, he put us on the map. So we thought why not honour the man now. We are happy to have him as our mentor and inspiration,” he said.

Mr Ngotya hopes that young people will learn from Mr Mbiko’s life. “He has so many accolades under his belt. He has been hailed by many as one of the best rugby players. We are delighted to have honoured him while, he is alive. We wanted to put a smile on his face. It was something good to hear people reflect back to his heydaysas a rugby player. People lit the event, telling his stories,” he told Vukani.

The event was among others attended by Beauty Dlulane, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Sports and Recreation; Avril Fillies, assistant coach of the Western Province Women’s Rugby team; Brian Hina, former Lagunya Rugby player; Louis Mzomba, former SA Rugby referee and former Springbok player and Dodo Tyhalibongo, also a former Lagunya rugby player.