Photo: @KaundaNtunja on twitter
Photo: @KaundaNtunja on twitter

Voices that will forever live on in rugby

By Opinion Time of article published Jul 24, 2020

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By: Mark Keohane

CAPE TOWN – Paul Dobson passed away this week, but his name, his writing and his voice will never pass away.

Right now, that will be of little consolation to those closest to the Dobson family, and my sincerest condolences. Paul’s rugby legacy breathes through his son John’s love for rugby and contribution to rugby in the Western Cape.

The younger Dobbo is the head coach of the Stormers and among the most talented coaches of his generation. He will make a big contribution to the future of rugby in this country, as he builds on the work and effort of his (late) father.

Dobson senior was renowned in refereeing circles, but his presence was in mentorship, coaching, education, books and he was considered the authority on South African rugby’s history.

If you wanted to clarify something you called Paul Dobson. If you wanted a second opinion, you tapped into the wisdom of the older Dobbo.

Top referee Andre Watson at the Cape Times breakfast club to promote his autobiography.On the right is Paul Dobson. Photo: Enver Essop

He offered calm, gladly shared his knowledge and you always left a chat with Paul Dobson feeling a little bit brighter and more informed. You could also leave feeling a bit chastened. He listened but he also challenged one’s thinking by way of his own thinking. He asked difficult questions and he was an advocate of solutions.

Some would say he was old school, but I like and have always liked "old school". As a young reporter, he rapped me on the knuckles a few times about how I delivered my point. He would challenge me that there were different ways of influencing and shaping change and that it didn’t always have to be with a sledgehammer.

Professionally, I learned from him, as did so many who crossed his path.

He always spoke of humility. He was consistent that you won as if you lost and you lost as if you won. He was talking about behaviour, being grounded and showing respect.

There could never be compromise when it came to the basic value of showing respect and the action in earning respect.

He is going to be missed because he was one of those giants you just always assumed would be roaming forever. He gave us 84 years but it felt like he had been in rugby for a lot longer.

#RIP Mr Dobson.

We only got 38 years of Kaunda Ntunja but they were spectacular in their power and influence.

Kaunda, a former SA Schools rugby captain and junior Springbok, roared pure emotion as a rugby commentator and revelled in debate, discussion and a desire to make the South African rugby landscape a healthier place. And he did it with a smile and with joy.

You only had to read the tributes to Kaunda on social media to appreciate his impact as a match commentator. Kaunda called his first game in 2009 when the Southern Kings hosted the British & Irish Lions in Port Elizabeth. Kaunda was just 26 years old when he delighted Xhosa-speaking rugby followers with his narrative and storytelling.

I don’t speak Xhosa, but I often listened to Kaunda’s commentary because you didn’t have to understand Xhosa to understand the passion and flow of his voice. It was electric, raw and beautiful.

Ntunja, like the older Dobson, left a legacy through his voice and his calling of the Springboks’ World Cup final victory against England in Japan in 2019 is one that will never leave us.

Ntjunja, like Dobson senior, will forever be alive in South African rugby.

To borrow from former Springbok winger Akona Ndungane, who tweeted: "Never has there been a man more charismatic and passionate about the sport. The rugby fraternity will never be the same. Lala ngoxolo Zizi."

#RIP Kaunda Ntunja.

Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a contributor to Independent Media sport

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