Late Kwaru captain Bomza Nkohla ‘did everything’ on a rugby field
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CAPE TOWN – He was an inspirational captain, a link between the forwards and backs as a No 8, and often kicked to touch!
That was the way Zola Yeye described Kwaru and Saru rugby legend Welile “Bomza” Nkohla, who passed away in Port Elizabeth on Sunday from cancer. He was 71.
Nkohla played in seven “Tests” as captain of the SA African Rugby Football Board team in 1968-69, and a few years later, his club Orientals broke away from the organisation with other clubs to form the KwaZakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru), which played under the auspices of the non-racial South African Rugby Union (Saru).
There he came up against likes of the Western Province and Saru captain Salie Fredericks – who passed away a few weeks ago – as well as legendary WP scrumhalf Cassiem Jabaar.
“I know Bomza very well. I watched him play. He was an inspirational captain in his day for Orientals Rugby Football Club. Very inspirational. He played at No 8, one of those dynamic eighthmen who would play loose and join the backline and be all over the field,” Yeye told IOL Sport on Monday.
Yeye was a flying wing for Kwaru and Saru in the 1980s himself, and the Springbok team manager from 2006-07.
Zola Yeye during his time as the Springbok team manager. Photo: André Grobler, SAPA
“Bomza was part of the great 1971 Kwaru team that became part and parcel of Saru, 71-72 – with Peter Mkata, Temba Ludwaba, Joseph Tshume the scrumhalf, Phakamile Lubambo.
“They played in the SA Cup against the likes of Salie Fredericks, Cassiem Jabaar, Yusuf Davids, Napoleon… Bomza also played with Wilfred Qovu.
“Very energetic, and a giant of the game. He loved rugby through and through. He was a committed player, a very creative player.
“If you had to look at some of the pictures in the newspapers and some of his movements, you would see that he became the link between the forwards and the backs. As a consequence, there were a lot of great tries scored.”
And if you think All Black great Zinzan Brooke revolutionised No 8 play by kicking to touch, amongst other skills with the boot, Nkohla beat him to it.
“He would move from the back, and it was ‘You see me now, and you see me all over’. Bomza had a great boot also. In those days, he would kick long touches, and he was that kind of eighthman who would pull back and cover for the backline at the back, and bring that movement from the back. He was a great player,” Yeye said.
“The Zinzan you saw on television was more or less the Bomza that we knew in his heydays. He would kick to touch, he did everything. Very mercurial No 8.”
Former national captains (top to bottom) Jack Juries, Bomza Nkohla and Austen van Heerden pictured at the Springbok Experience Museum at the V&A Waterfront in 2013. Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams
Nkohla was heavily involved in rugby until his death, and voiced his dissatisfaction with the administration problems at the Eastern Province Rugby Union a few years ago.
Yeye says that the 71-year-old Nkohla even played a role at the Southern Kings until his death.
“Bomza is a legend. His work will always be remembered by his community – he was a true community leader. He never sat back after retiring, and he was involved in rugby structures. When he died on Sunday, he was a selector for the Southern Kings team. He never stopped being an ambassador of rugby, the game he loved and played so well.
“Greats like Bomza, Salie Fredericks and Cassiem Jabaar set up a fertile platform for our youngsters to be great sportsmen and ambassadors of the game. We will remember Bomza as that inspirational leader and ambassador of rugby.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander also paid tribute to Nkohla on Monday. “Bomza was not only a legend in Eastern Cape rugby communities, but a legend of black rugby prior to the days of unity in our game, and until his passing this weekend,” Alexander said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to display his vast talent on the international stage because of the political situation in our country, but he is a former national captain and will be remembered as an uncompromising loose forward who had a huge love for South African rugby.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this time of grief.”
Nkohla was born on February 22, 1946, and is survived by his wife Bella, six children, twin sister Welekazi and brother Mzimkhulu.