Sharks' Odwa set for century
Durban - Wing Odwa Ndungane
will become the fourth player in the current Cell C Sharks squad to gain his 100th cap for the franchise should he play against the Lions on Saturday, reports Sharks website
editor Michael Marnewick
He will be joining an elite group from the current squad that includes captain Bismarck du Plessis (currently on 109 Sharks caps), Jacques Botes
with 114 and JP Pietersen
“He’s been a fantastic campaigner for the Cell C Sharks,” said Director of Rugby Jake White
“He’s a Springbok, he’s been around the block and he’s a great role-model to the young guys here.”
Like any player, he’s faced battles and overcome them, he’s tasted glory and defeat. And now is the time to celebrate his achievements and dedicated contribution to Sharks rugby.
“I’m very proud, I’ve been here for 10 years and a lot of guys don’t get to play for one union for that long, so I feel fortunate,” said Ndungane. “Playing my 100th game this weekend is something very special and I’m very excited.
“My brother (Akona) is also in his 10th year - playing for the Bulls - so it’s not only an honour for us individually but for the whole family and I’m dedicating this game to my father.”
The brothers' father recently passed away
In the professional era, staying with one team for a decade is relatively rare these days which makes his lengthy stay in Durban all that more special.
“First things first, you have to be well looked after at your union, and then outside of rugby, you have to be happy,” he said. “Not only the players, but the backroom staff, the medical team, the management, stadium staff. There is a very happy environment at The Sharks. Durban’s a nice, easy-going place.
“Bismarck du Plessis, Jacques Botes
and I have been here the longest, we’ve been very happy here and I think that’s why players like to come to the Sharks. I’ve spoken to players who have come here on loan and that wanted to stay, they enjoy it here; that just shows you what kind of place Durban and The Sharks are.”
Every player goes through ups and downs throughout his career, and doubt and hardship can be tough battles to overcome. Fortunately, Ndungane stuck to his ambitions and worked through them.
“Things were quite tough for me when I first got here, but that’s part of life, you will go through challenges but what’s important is your support structure to help you through these challenges. But I stuck with it, fought through it and now I sit here, talking about playing my 100th game. In 2005 I thought I might be around for another season or so, but here I am, through perseverance and God’s grace, I’m playing my 100th game.”
The Currie Cup victories count amongst his career highlights with the Sharks (although some will remember his injury time sprint down the line to score a famous try against the Crusaders, with Ruan Pienaar converting from the touchline to win an incredible game).
“Winning the Currie Cups are definitely amongst my favourite memories, they were all special in their own different ways, but this previous one when we beat Western Province in Cape Town is the one I will probably look back on with the most fondness. Considering everything that had happened, starting off well in the Super Rugby competition but finishing off badly, losing our coach and a new coach coming in, a new CEO. Most teams would have fallen apart, but Brendan Venter came in and made things so easy for us. He created an environment where everyone came together and worked towards one goal. One thing that sticks out for me is how optimistic he was.
“Despite losing to Western Province here in the rain in a pool match, he came to us in the change-room afterwards and said to us: ‘You know what, we’ll get them in the final in Cape Town.’ Remember that was the decider to determine who would host the final. And how right he was. It’s not that it was nice revenge - even though revenge is sweet - but it was hugely rewarding.”
The Sharks' clash against the Lions at Ellis Park kicks off at 19:10 on Saturday.