Springboks

Ndungane hails Rassie's Bok appointment

2018-06-24 06:38
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Former Springbok Akona Ndungane believes new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus' track record is showing that he's the right man to make the national team a force in world rugby again.

"Rassie's track record shows he's capable of taking the Springboks back to being one of the top teams in the world, and a team where the stadiums are packed again and the whole country gets behind them," said the former Springbok wing.

Earlier this week, he joined fellow former Springboks Victor Matfield, AJ Venter and his twin brother Odwa on a Red Golf Tour rewards experience, playing at Leopard Creek and Blair Atholl.

"To have a player like Siya Kolisi captaining the side is massive for a lot of black South Africans supporting the game. And for (the) 'Beast' Mtawarira to become a member of the 100 Club is equally special. It's not easy to play that consistently for the Springboks," said Akona.

"But, overall, in these past two Tests against England, I was very happy to see Rassie giving players who have been performing well for their unions a chance in the Springbok team.

"I think RG Snyman has done really well in this series against England. Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi have also impressed me," he said.

READ: Boks fall flat at miserable Newlands

Akona made more than 100 appearances for the Bulls and was capped 11 times for the Springboks before he retired in 2015.

He can certainly appreciate what so many of the players who made their Springbok debut in the current series must have felt by becoming part of such a legacy - because he was in a similar situation when he was playing for Border and received a phone call from Loftus Versfeld.

"The Bulls called and offered me a trial. I was a bit intimidated about moving from East London to Pretoria. But when I looked at the Bulls team then, it had Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez, Richard Bands and so many other great players. I used to watch them play Currie Cup and I decided I couldn't say no to the opportunity to play with them," said Akona.

"It was intimidating, but, fortunately, my brother Odwa played for the Bulls before I did. I called him and he told me I would definitely grow as a player. I laughed because Odwa moved on to the Sharks, but they still called me Odwa at Loftus for about six months after he'd left. But they made me feel so welcome there."

Odwa's move to the Sharks set up the inevitable and the brothers ended up playing against each other.

READ: Farewell to one of the great SA rugby servants

Akona says that, as the eldest twin, he had to get used to that.

"When I was younger, I used to enjoy playing against my brother and tackling him hard. But the older I got, the more it changed. I remember we played the Sharks in Durban and my team-mate JP Nel hit Odwa with a really hard tackle and I felt sorry for him. He's still my younger brother. It was tough on my parents when we played against each other," he said.

"But you can't have that mentality in the game and we both had to just focus on seeing each other as opponents during a match."

Now the two prefer to compete on the golf course.

"I love my golf. It's funny because I never thought I'd play golf. But when we used to tour as a team, we'd get a day off and some of the guys went to play golf. That's when I picked it up and I've enjoyed it ever since," said Akona.

But there is still a friendly rivalry between two of the greatest gentlemen in South African rugby.

"I'm much better than Odwa at golf, but he'll never admit it."

 

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