SA Rugby mourns death of its first black president, Silas Nkanunu

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Breyton Paulse and  former SARU President, Silas Nkanunu.
Breyton Paulse and former SARU President, Silas Nkanunu.
(Gallo Images/City Press/Charles Pullen)
  • Silas Nkanunu became the first black SARU president when he succeeded Louis Luyt in September 1998.
  • Current president Mark Alexander paid tribute to the former rugby leader and lawyer.
  • Nkanunu also held various roles at world governing body, the IRB, during his time in rugby administration.

The South African Rugby Union’s (SARU’s) first black president, Silas Nkanunu, has died at the age of 87, SA Rugby confirmed on Friday.

Nkanunu, who was a lawyer by trade, specialising in human rights law, succeeded Louis Luyt in 1998 to become SARU’s first black leader, during a time of unity but plenty division.

He held the position from then until 2003 and was succeeded by Brian van Rooyen.

Current SARU president, Mark Alexander, described Nkanunu as a "good person", not just a good leader.

"Silas had many great qualities and skills as an attorney but perhaps the greatest tribute you can pay is that he was a simply a good man,” said Alexander.

"It might sound like faint praise, but he had none of the ego, malice or aggression that sometimes characterises our world and he was an immensely calming and consensual influence at a very difficult time for rugby.

"In some ways you might say he was rugby’s Mandela in that he was a force for good and was able to completely steady the ship in his time in office.

"No one who met Silas will be able to do anything other than remember him with great affection.

"Players talk about being able to leave the jersey in a better position than when you first received it. Silas was certainly able to say that."

Nkanunu also held positions within world rugby governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB) as World Rugby was known at the time, chairing its game’s regulation committee and being IRB vice-president for a brief period.

At the time of his election, former IRB Chairman Syd Millar, said: "Mr Nkanunu is one of the most distinguished rugby administrators in the world. Having done so much in helping unite South African rugby he has gained the respect of the rugby world and therefore there can be no more fitting appointment."

- Compiled by Sport24 staff

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