Former African Springbok captain Welile James "Bomza" Nkohla died aged 71 in Port Elizabeth on Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
Nkohla‚ who played No8 for the Oriental Rugby Club ("The Blues", established in 1894) and Eastern Province‚ was a veteran of the Partons and Zonk Cup competitions of the SA African Rugby Football Board. He made his provincial debut at the age of 21 and his debut as an African Springbok and captain of the side against the SA Coloured Rugby Football Board National XV in May 1968‚ a match his team won 8-5. This was followed by six more Tests between 1968 and 1969.
In 1973‚ Oriental and eight others broke away from the SA African Board to establish the Kwazakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru)‚ which subsequently joined the nonracial SA Rugby Union. As a member of Kwaru‚ Nkohla joined the SA Cup competition, where he led the team with distinction. He concluded his playing career in this competition, which was once the pride of nonracial rugby, and regarded fellow SA Cup players and opponents such as Salie Fredericks and Winston Petersen‚ both of Western Province‚ among his greatest opponents.
"‘Bomza’ was not only a legend in Eastern Cape rugby communities but a legend of black rugby prior to the days of unity in our game‚" said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
"Unfortunately, he did not have the opportunity to display his vast talent on the international stage‚ because of the political situation in our country‚ but he is a former national captain and will be remembered as an uncompromising loose forward who had a huge love for South African rugby."
Nkohla and fellow stalwarts Salie Fredericks‚ Cassiem Jabaar and Fagmie Solomons received the SA Rugby President’s Award in 2004 for their contribution to rugby.