Former Bok wing retiring after 12 years at franchise and nine test appearances
Wing Odwa Ndungane is a rare player who has turned out in more than a century of Super Rugby and Currie Cup matches and, equally unusually‚ will retire from first-class rugby on his terms this month.
The former Bok wing‚ along with brother Akona‚ is also one half of the only set of twins to have played for the Springboks.
Odwa said earlier this week that the current Currie Cup would be his last campaign in the Sharks’ black and white jersey after a 12-year association.
He is the union’s most-capped Super Rugby player with 135 appearances‚ four more than hooker Bismarck du Plessis, while he also has 104 Currie Cup caps to date. So far, he has played 321 first-class matches at all levels.
Saturday’s Currie Cup match between the Sharks and Western Province will also serve as a tribute-benefit game for the veteran wing.
In professional rugby‚ seldom has a player displayed as much loyalty to a single union as Odwa.
“For me‚ the biggest thing is sharing a similar record [100 caps in Super Rugby and Currie Cup] with my twin brother‚” Ndungane said.
“It’s something we will both cherish and share memories on for years to come.
“It’s a special achievement to share this record with only a handful of other players who were also capped this many times.
“I haven’t done it alone. I’ve had a lot of support from family‚ from teammates and coaches and been blessed to play at the highest level for so many years.”
Ndungane‚ 36‚ made his firstclass debut for the Border Bulldogs in 2000 and went on to play 49 matches for them before joining Akona at the Bulls.
It was a frustrating single season at Loftus in 2004‚ which saw him make only two appearances.
“I originally moved to Durban from the Bulls because there had been a relationship in the Super 12 days between the Sharks and the teams in the Eastern Cape, where I had grown up‚” Ndungane said.
“Having watched the Sharks as a boy‚ I was naturally a fan.
“I can still recall when I was at the Bulls during the Currie Cup and I received a call from [then-Sharks coach] Kevin Putt‚ asking me if I wanted to come to Durban.
“I jumped at the opportunity.”
He epitomised what it means to be a professional – training hard‚ staying in shape‚ remaining motivated‚ encouraging youngsters and playing consistently well in an era when too many players believe being professional is only about being paid.
“I don’t think there is any secret [to longevity in the game].
“Perhaps the most important is the fact that I’ve never lost my love of rugby‚” Ndungane said.
“What has made it so enjoyable is the people around me.
“I could so easily have lost my passion and interest‚ but the teammates‚ coaches‚ management, the fans‚ everyone has made it all so enjoyable.
“A lot of hard work has gone into ensuring 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 also made nine test appearances for the Boks, while Akona made 11.
They never played together in a test.