Odwa Ndungane: Reflecting On One Of SA Rugby’s Greatest Professionals  

The 36-year-old Sharks winger has finally called it quits but he can depart safe in the knowledge that he’s a legend of local rugby.

Odwa Ndungane’s greatest achievement perhaps is that no one has really complained about his age.

South African rugby is all too prone to frowning upon players’ date of birth.

In some cases, experienced players have been long in the tooth and it affected their legacies.

But not Ndungane.

The 36-year-old Sharks stalwart earlier this week announced his retirement at the conclusion of the Currie Cup campaign.

The reaction to it has been fitting.

People have praised Ndungane for never letting his standards slip and keeping fit as if he were 25.

They are overjoyed he’s able to wave goodbye on his own terms.

There haven’t been any complaints over him prolonging his first-class career to an impressive 17 years – and that as a wing or fullback.

Ndungane should be really be celebrated as one of the greatest professionals South African rugby has ever delivered.

Typically, Ndungane doesn’t offer any unique insight into how he’s managed to play this long.

“I don’t think there is any secret, but perhaps most importantly is the fact that I’ve never lost my love of rugby. What has made it so enjoyable is the people around me,” he said.

“I could so easily have lost my passion and interest, but the team-mates, coaches, management at the stadium, the fans, everyone has made it all so enjoyable. A lot of hard work has gone in to ensure I stayed on top of my game. I have been blessed to have played for so long and to not have any serious injuries.”

Ndungane was unlucky that he played in an era where Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen formed a fearsome and skillful partnership on the wings for the Springboks but at least he did get international recognition.

“I would have loved to get more, but nonetheless I’m still grateful for the opportunities I did get,” he said.

“Many people have played professional rugby and never got the chance to play for their country, so it’s still a wonderful honour for me to have played for the Springboks.”

His one last wish also epitomises his character: that the exciting youngsters stay at the Sharks.

21-year-old S’bu Nkosi, who’s already been called up to the national squad, has admitted Ndungane is one of his idols.

“If you look at the talent we have coming through, young guys like Curwin Bosch, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, the du Preez twins, there is definitely a lot of promise,” said Ndungane.

“If we can keep all those guys at the union for as long as possible, with all that potential, I believe a lot of success will follow.”

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