By George Byron
DESPITE having to train by moon and streetlight on a bone-hard pitch, African Bombers Rugby Football Club are still breeding stars of the future by the scrum-load for professional rugby.
The Zwide-based club currently have nine players contracted to the EP Kings and the club’s general secretary, Fezi Majola, says there are many more rising stars waiting in the wings.
Despite not having a major sponsor the ambitious club are doing their best to live up to their club logo which reads: “Through God’s grace we will conquer all.”
“This is fertile ground for rugby players of the future and we are very proud of the fact that we have so many players who have become professionals at the Kings despite us having a zero budget,” said Majola.
The current former Bombers players contracted at the Kings are Tiger Mangweni, Lizo Gqoboka, Thabo Majomele, Thabiso Mngomezulu, Sphephelo Mayaba, Thembelani Bholi, Andile Witbooi, Siyanda Grey and Siyanda Mangaliso.
Stormers star Siya Kolisi played junior rugby at Bombers and when he was at school at Grey High, he played some matches for the first team during school holidays
Grey, who hails from Komga, is expected to be one of the big stars in the Kings team when they make their debut in Super Rugby next year.
Club chairman Mark Beale said it was a miracle that Bombers continued to exist despite the hardship the club and players faced.
“We do not even have a clubhouse so any meetings must be held at either Fezi’s house or mine. If you can be successful with nothing, imagine what you can do with sponsorship,” said Beale.
“We set high standards at the club and this year we beat Despatch. who represented EP at the club champs, on their home ground,” said Majola.
“We charge fans R10 entrance so gate money is one of our main sources of revenue,” said Majola.
African Bombers was established in 1954 and they affiliated under the now defunct South African Black Rugby Board.
In 1966, the club managed to win the Second Division and was promoted to the first league up until 1970, when there was a huge split in black rugby in Port Elizabeth.
In 1971, Bombers joined the newly formed Kwazakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru) which played non-racial rugby under the auspices of the South African Rugby Union. Bombers were the first club under Kwaru to win the Pilbro Cup league in 1971.
With the advent of unity in 1992 the club also joined other clubs from all racial groups to form a single rugby union, named the Eastern Province Rugby Football Union.
“We competed in the lower league, called city league, that we eventually won in 2000 and got promoted to the lucrative Super League. In the same year we were invited by the South African Rugby Football Union [Sarfu] to the club championships in Pretoria,” said Majola.
“In 2004, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary and we were privileged to host Toyota Rugby Club that was touring South Africa. The match was played at Telkom Park.
“In 2010, we were crowned the Adams Cup league champs and we were promoted to the Grand Challenge League, which was the premier division last year.
“We were also involved in an Eastern Cape Department of Sport-sanctioned tournament called Super 12 and ended up third.
“Over the years the club has managed to produce several provincial players who represented EP.
“To mention a few, we had Thobela Zweni who was the first black player to play Super Rugby when he represented EP in the Super 10 under Kiwi coach Alex Wylie.
“Following on Zweni’s heels was Wonga Joka who went on to play more than 50 games for EP.
“Despite all the history we do not have a home ground of our own.
“We are using two fields, one for practices [Dan Qeqe] and the other one for our home matches [Zwide Stadium].
“Where we practice there are no flood lights. We train in darkness and depend on nearby streetlights and the moon.
Their ideals are:
* To be strong in planning, retaining and recruiting members/ players and provide them with opportunities to advance their careers;
* To take a holistic approach to constant club improvement and sound corporate governance that will lead to effective club management; and
* Identifying quality finance practices and focusing on revenue generation opportunities, especially fundraising.
Majola said the main items the club were looking for were rugby jerseys, a scrumming machine, a first-aid box and transport.
On Saturday, September 22, the Weekend Post will focus on the man who helps make Bombers tick and discover how he first got involved with one of the Bay’s best-known rugby clubs.
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, September 15, 2012.