Siya Kolisi and the African Bombers: The rugby club that raised a captain

Members of the African Bombers rugby club in Zwide. From left chairperson Mbulelo Gidane, Vumile Madlingozi, first team coach Zola Coto,Eric Songwiqi, team manager Thando Mazosiwe and juniors coach Sicelo Mankayi. (Kamva Somdyala, News24)
Members of the African Bombers rugby club in Zwide. From left chairperson Mbulelo Gidane, Vumile Madlingozi, first team coach Zola Coto,Eric Songwiqi, team manager Thando Mazosiwe and juniors coach Sicelo Mankayi. (Kamva Somdyala, News24)

The African Bombers Rugby Club in Zwide, Port Elizabeth, is a huge part of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi's story.

The name Eric Songwiqi is equally important when considering Kolisi's days as a junior rugby player.

The story goes that Kolisi found rugby early in his life when, walking home from school, he used to pass the Dan Qeqe Stadium and hear the sounds of the African Bombers playing rugby.

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Being the eager child he was, he found his way into the stadium, chatting to Songwiqi about playing rugby and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I saw a vivacious young man," Songwiqi tells News24 of Kolisi as we take our seats in the stadium stand.

Having seen Kolisi's exploits as his first rugby mentor, Songwiqi took the vivacious young talent, together with two others, and sought opportunities for them, which included the eventual move to Grey High School.

Vumile Madlingozi, the secretary of the club, joins the conversation. He's been with the club since 1993. When he first encountered Kolisi "when he was about 16, I could see a very special player. At that age, he was playing as though he was destined for higher honours".

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He says the club forms a great part of the community's social fabric.

"Most people grow up here," he explains.

"Take for example Siya: He started off here. It was at this community where he learnt how to hold, catch and pass a rugby ball. So by the time he moved to Grey [High School], he had a fair bit of knowledge about the game."

Madlingozi's message to the Boks for Saturday's Rugby World Cup final against England is: "Go out there and enjoy yourselves and the result will take care of itself."

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