Excitement was evident on the faces of Nyanga residents when former South African Rugby coach Norman “Nhonho” Mbiko celebrated his 75th birthday at his house on Monday 26 October.
Young and old sang and ululated as Mbiko was introduced to the crowd outside his house.
The event was organised by Black Rugby Veterans and the local community.
All Mbiko’s SA rugby blazers were hanged and displayed on the wall for the community to see.
The SA rugby legend, who is currently suffering from Parkinson’s disease, was given a new electronic wheelchair donated by The Petro Jackson Player Fund.
He also received a new SA rugby tracksuit, padded jacket, t-shirt, gloves and a beanie from members of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
Mbiko won the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2003 in Fiji. He also won the u.19 rugby World Cup in France in 2007.
His first national involvement in rugby was in 1967 when he captained the South African black team against several international teams including England, France, Italy and the All Blacks locally and abroad.
After the unification in 1992 Mbiko was appointed as a coach by the Western Province and later by SARU for various national rugby teams.
He won two World Cups before retiring from the sport in 2017.
A friend and former teammate Justice Mshudulu said Mbiko deserved more than what he got.
He described him as someone who dedicated his life to the sport, a humble and disciplined individual.
“Norman didn’t want to lose on the field. He would literally cry when we lost the game. He used to shout at the players on the field, especially when someone lost the ball,” said Mshudulu, adding that Mbiko was the best scrum-half during their time.
Family spokesperson Mlandeli Mbiko labelled his older brother as a straightforward person.
“We were 10 children in our family. Norman is the firstborn and is like a father figure to us. He is disciplined, generous and a friendly person,” said Mlandeli.
He said his brother had made history for putting Nyanga on the map for being the captain of the South African Black team and won two world cups during his tenure as a coach.
SARU senior manager at government and stakeholder relations Khaya Mayedwa described the event as a good thing and it inspired a lot of people.
“It is a great thing to honour a person while he is still alive instead of waiting for him to die then we start honouring him. The yesteryear players played a big role to pave way for current players in South Africa. Mbiko played in the national team during a difficult time. They were playing for the love of the game,” said Mayedwa.
He described him as an asset to the sport fraternity. He wished him many more years of life.
Former Lagunya Rugby Football Club player in Nyanga and current citing commissioner in SA Rugby Louis Mzomba said Norman was his coach during his playing days.
“I grew up under his leadership. He was like a father figure to us. He taught us discipline and how to conduct ourselves on and off the pitch,” said Mzomba. He said Mbiko was a role model in the community.