Twin brothers left their mark on the game nationally
IT WILL truly be an end of an era by the end of this month as Sharks legend and ultimate professional Odwa Ndungane hangs up his boots and bows out of the game on his own terms.
It has been a distinguished career for the veteran that has spanned an incredible 17 years since making his professional debut in 2000 and then over a decade at the Sharks since joining up with them in 2005.
“It has been an incredible 12 years in Durban, this has been my home and these guys have become my family for over a decade and it is sad that it has to come to an end,” he said.
“I am trying not to think too much about the end, it is going to be very hard to say goodbye, I have been blessed to have been able to play this long and I am really going to miss pulling on the jersey.”
Odwa has at most three matches left to play, in a career that has seen him play an amazing 321 first-class matches at all levels, should the Sharks go all the way and make the final of the Currie Cup which will be played on the last Saturday of the month. But he will first play in his tribute match this weekend against WP and then line up in the semis next weekend with the Sharks opponents still to be decided.
“My focus now is just on the Western Province match, we don't want to lose momentum before the semifinals so we want to win this game and take it into the semis and hopefully the final,” said Odwa.
“It would be amazing to win another Currie Cup title but whether we win or lose it will be a very emotional occasion for me.”
However Odwa will not be lost to South African rugby as he will join up with his twin brother, former Blue Bulls legend Akona, with the duo set to make their mark as sports agents based in Pretoria.
They will now be looking to nurture and guide the exciting talents of up-and-coming rugby players as they make their way from the junior to senior side of the game.
“Akona has already got his licence and we have opened our agency already,” said Odwa.
“We currently are representing four youngsters from around the country and we will be looking to increase that number as we grow the business. We want to give back just as much, if not more to the sport that gave us so many happy years and we hope to do that through this agency.”
The brothers currently hold the distinguished record of being the only twins to have ever represented the Springboks, although never at the same time and only played together for a brief spell early in their professional careers.
“It was great to be able to play alongside Akona, even for a short spell, but it was also difficult because we played in the same position,” said Odwa.
“But even when I moved to the Sharks and Akona went to the Bulls, it was still the most amazing vibe when we played against each other.
“The whole family would travel to Durban or Pretoria and it was just a wonderful experience, even though one of us always had to end up on the losing side.”
The brothers did however play together for many years during their school years. They were born in Mthatha before moving to EL where they attended Hudson Park High, turning out for their first team.
“Odwa and Akona have become folk heroes at Hudson over the years, everyone here prides themselves that they attended Hudson and the legacy that they have left behind is immense,” said Hudson Park High deputy headmaster Dave Alers.
“They have been amazing, not only as rugby players, but also as decent honest people who have been great role models for the kids.
“We would like to wish Odwa well in his final few games and we hope that he and Akona will continue to lead off the field as they did on.
“Next year is their 20-year reunion and we are hoping we can get them both back as guest speakers for the reunion, which would be a wonderful occasion for the school.”
Following their school career Odwa went on to make his pro debut for the Border Bulldogs in 2000, while Akona made his debut for the Mighty Elephants in 2003, before joining Odwa at the Bulldogs for a single season.
“Odwa has had an amazing career and we wish him all the best for his future after rugby,” said director of Border Rugby Dumisani Mhani
“He made his debut at the Bulldogs and still has a few more games to play and we hope that he will bow out on a high by lifting the Currie Cup trophy once again.”
In his three years at the Bulldogs Odwa featured 49 times, scoring 125 points while in Akona’s only season he featured 17 times, scoring 70 points.
“We did have both brothers playing for us at the same time at a stage, it was only a short time but they were brilliant and it was so difficult to tell who was who,” said Mhani.
“We are very proud of both Odwa and Akona and what they have gone on to achieve over the years and hope that they will stay involved in rugby for many years to come.
“We would love to have them back at Border at some stage, whether it is to conduct a camp or just to come and inspire the team and we look forward to when they will be back.”
It will be very interesting to see exactly what the future holds for two legends of the game, but what should be in no doubt is that they have left their permanent mark on rugby in SA and will be fondly remembered by fans for many years to come.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Akona and Odwa Ndungane seem to enjoy the moment after another great match
IN HOT PURSUIT: Odwa Ndungane never backs away from a challenge