Phaka will celebrate black rugby
The names of great black rugby players of the past roll off Kaunda Ntunja’s tongue.
If he has his way, these pioneers will become familiar to us all thanks to the launch of Phaka, SuperSport’s isiXhosa rugby show, which debuted this week.
Ntunja, a pioneer himself, is head presenter of the magazine show and comes equipped with a strong rugby pedigree and a passion to reveal the untold story of black rugby.
“This history has never been documented,” says Ntunja, who was the first black captain of SA Schools, in 2000, and went on to captain the SA Under-19 squad and play in the Currie Cup for the Cheetahs.
Butterworth-born Ntunja has since become a popular rugby commentator and unashamedly bows at the feet of cocommentator Makhaya Jack, one of the patriarchs of black rugby and a man who brings his unique humour and insight to his commentary work. The pair will front up Phaka, which is broadcast on Tuesday evenings (SS1, 7pm).
Phaka is an isiXhosa term for “dish up” (an idiomatic reference to the scrum half distributing the ball).
Ntunja is excited at the possibility of profiling past giants of the game, such as Cassiem Jabbar, Lucky Mange, Derrick Jardine, Thobile Mtya and Patsa Matyeshana. The spotlight will also be on current players.
“We don’t know the old guys because they were never on television, but many say they would have been great in any era and could have become Springboks,” says Ntunja wistfully.
As the debut show revealed, his production team has done a great job to dig up old, grainy films of these extraordinary men.
Phaka will also focus on development and visit rugby-playing areas that Ntunja says people don’t know much about.
The Phaka team is researching the Solly Tyibilika story, a cautionary tale of great success followed by tragedy. The Eastern Cape loose forward had the archetypal rags-to-riches story, but died young, murdered at the age of 32. It is a compelling narrative of the pitfalls of success, which often strike black players who aren’t equipped to deal with the sudden change in their lifestyles. Lady Rugger finalist Motshidisi Mohono will also be a regular presenter. Having cut her broadcasting teeth on the Varsity Cup, she’s keen to flex her TV muscles on the new show.
“It’s important for black kids to see that people like them – black people – can also make it,” she said, cutting to the heart of how important such a programme is.
At the recent launch of the new show, held in Port Elizabeth, the excitement and appetite black people have for rugby was palpable. The game has been played for 100 years and more in the Eastern Cape, although the great shame remains that this passion has yet to be sufficiently harnessed. The Southern Kings are being propped up by SA Rugby, but Border and Eastern Province barely survive as franchises.
Local black players who do emerge, such as Siya Kolisi and Lizo Gqoboka, inevitably move on. But as Phaka intends to show, it’s a sign of the region’s love for the game that many more such heroes should emerge.
– Own correspondent
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