Makhaya Jack pays moving tribute to fallen 'comrade in arms' Kaunda Ntunja

Kaunda Ntunja during the Currie Cup match between the Sharks and Golden Lions at Kings Park on 16 August 2013.
Kaunda Ntunja during the Currie Cup match between the Sharks and Golden Lions at Kings Park on 16 August 2013.
Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • On magazine show Phaka and in the commentary booth, Kaunda Ntunja referred to Makhaya as "Sir Jack, the knighted one", out of affection and reverence.
  • Ntunja was laid to rest last Friday 24 July in a private burial at his village home eThanga, in Butterworth.
  • He was known for his entertaining and emotive commentary in isiXhosa, narrating historic moments such as Siya Kolisi's first match as Springbok captain and last year's Rugby World Cup victory.

Xhosa commentator and former flanker Makhaya Jack paid a moving tribute to his late SuperSport colleague and friend Kaunda Ntunja, calling him his "comrade in arms" that he's "been through serious wars with".

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The two wordsmiths famously put isiXhosa commentary into national prominence with their unique blend of entertaining, piercing, poignant and critical commentary, which earned them adulation across the country.

Jack and Ntunja were the first to commentate in isiXhosa on SuperSport rugby broadcasts, beginning during the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.

They were nearly inseparable, sharing inside jokes, joshing with each other on air and bringing joy to those that understood the language and some that didn't. 

More than that, they were passionate transformation drivers with a keen appetite for development, taking their popular magazine programme Phaka to remote village and township rugby clubs on give-back missions and promoting the game.

"He's a man I've been through serious wars with," said Jack during Thursday night's virtual memorial hosted on Ubumbo's YouTube channel.

"I am very pleased that we were able to find and make time for each other, for constantly having those friendly, educative, humorous and sometimes touching conversations.

"Kaunda the man, Kaunda my son, Kaunda my brother, Kaunda the leader, Kaunda the go-getter, Kaunda the debater and hard-worker, the professional, the irritator who knew no boundaries - you were a beacon of hope to many in the rugby fraternity.

"You identified, grew, developed and promoted the game of rugby [using] your scintillating voice. Your passion and spirit to make a difference, to force change and remove stereotypes in rugby circles and your God-given talent were absolutely immeasurable.

"You were frank, straight-talking and you never minced your words to appease the masters. You’ve really impacted many lives."

OBITUARY | Kaunda Ntunja impacted rugby and people

Often, Ntunja referred to Makhaya as "Sir Jack, the knighted one", a show of affection and reverence to the former Kwaru and old Saru captain.

In the booth, they would bait each other, debate and dovetail like old mates sitting and watching a game on the front stoep together. It's what endeared them to the rugby-loving public. It made people feel like they were just two blokes chatting rugby on a casual sunny Saturday.

"The heavens have rolled a guard of honour for you and rolled out the red carpet to welcome you. Go well my comrade in arms, my gentle giant. You've really run the perfect race.

"I'll forever cherish, treasure and love you Zizi elihle. I promise to intensify your wishes and ambitions, along with the rest of your colleagues, particularly the Xhosa commentators, to fulfil your rugby mandate," Jack said.

Springboks Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi also sent a brief message, relating their condolences to the Ntunja family, his friends and rugby followers who knew Ntunja.

"Kaunda loved his rugby and his work," said Am.

"After matches, he was the kind of person that would be complimentary when you did well and offer constructive advice when you’ve erred, as a respected rugby figure.

"That's how I knew Kaunda."

The 2000 SA Schools captain and former Cheetahs flank was laid to rest last Friday, 24 July, in a private burial at his village home eThanga, in Butterworth.

"It is with a very sad heart and regret that I could not be physically present for your final send-off because of the unfortunate and difficult prevailing circumstances of the lockdown regulations. However, I know you would have understood," said Jack.

Said Mapimpi: "I first met Kaunda in 2017 while I was still at the Southern Kings and he invited me to his show, Phaka."

"But before then, I knew his voice from his SuperSport commentary. I'm at a loss for words and this has been tough on everyone, especially those who knew him well and those who knew his work.

"He did great, admirable work that we could all see and hear from the time he started commentating, all the way until last year's Rugby World Cup.

"I’d like to pass my special condolences to Kaunda's family."

- Compiled by Sibusiso Mjikeliso

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