A special tribute to Kaunda Ntunja

By Cwenga Maqhubela

Sports

The South African Rugby community paid their last tributes to legendary Xhosa rugby commentator.
Image by SuperSport

It is not often that we wake up to such stories in the rugby community but on Monday the 20th of July we heard about the sad passing of one of South Africa’s most passionate rugby commentator and former professional rugby player Kaunda Ntunja.

Background

Kaunda Ntunja was born in East London and grew up in King Williams Town. He made his rugby debut for Dale College XV and went on to represent South Africa at school level and junior springbok level. He made history by becoming the first black captain to lead the SA schools side and junior springboks. Ntunja also played for the Sharks junior side before moving to the Free State Cheetahs were, he won the Currie Cup with them in 2005.

How Kaunda Ntunja made his name known as a commentator

After deciding to put an end to his professional rugby career he went on a venture of joining in the commentary team initially as an English commentator. He then later moved on to the Xhosa side of commentary were he managed to build a name for himself by using monologues and poetic driven commentary that lured many rugby lovers to enjoy the sport. He was mostly known as “Zizi” or “Bev” by many and created a name for himself by using his skills and knowledge acquired in his drama studies and combining them with his passion for rugby.  One of his most known phrases he liked to use whenever a try was scored is, “yiBubbly!, Shampompo!, Shampizi!, Ohh! Int’ ezhlwahlwazayo! In an interview he had on a show called Homeground on SuperSport he mentioned that one of many things that makes him happy is how black people are starting to up their standards and succeeding in South African Rugby. Zizi was twice crowned as the SAB Sports Media Commentator of the year proving his qualities behind the mic.

What does this loss mean to his colleagues?

Zizi worked with several other passionate commentators, he shared the stage with likes of Khaya Malothane, Lonwabo Mthimka, Xola Nthsinga and many others at SuperSort. Khaya Malothane worked with Ntunja most of the times, he described him as more than just a colleague but as a brother as well. Malothane praised Ntunja for his passion for rugby and how he managed to entertain people from the commentary box. “I remember the first time listening to his commentary in English, it really showed that he was lost or in the wrong side of commentary because you just could not get the energy from him.” Malothane says Ntunja was a very respected man at SuperSport because of his work ethic and desire to put an effort on everything he does for his show Phaka and in commentary. Amongst many things Khaya and Kaunda shared, one highlight that Khaya can outline is the growth of black South African players in rugby and how that always made him happy. “In one of our last conversations I had with him, we discussed about how the Springboks would have to prepare for the upcoming Rugby Champion and, British and Irish Lions tour,” that is what Malothane said when explaining his last conversation with Ntunja. Malothane said Ntunja’s passing came as real shock and he had never thought of losing a friend as close as Ntunja so soon.

Friends and family

The passing of Kaunda Ntunja was announced by his sister Tando Ntunja on Monday. This came as a shock to the rugby community and the SA Rugby Union president Mark Alexander expressed words of encouragement to the Ntunja family on behalf of the union. His wife Aviwe Ntunja took it to twitter and expressed her feelings on her husband’s passing. This comes at a time of real hardship to the Ntunja family as Kaunda and Tando had lost their father earlier on this moth due to a heart failure. Kaunda Ntunja leaves behind his wife Aviwe Ntunja, one child and his sister Tando Ntunja.

Phumla ngoxolo Bev! lala Zizi elihle! Huntshu Dlamini!

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