Phaka will cel­e­brate black rugby

CityPress - - Sport -

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

If your part­ner owns a gun, you could be the next tar­get.

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