Thulani Ndlovu: Pioneer black rugby player

19 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Thulani Ndlovu: Pioneer black rugby player Thulani Ndlovu (top) as he is today and (bottom) during his heyday

The Sunday News

THULANI Tabulawa Ndlovu, the former chairperson of the Bulawayo Metropolitan Rugby Board (2016-2018) and chairperson of Highlander Rugby Club from 2019 to date is among a generation of black players that inspired others in the sport.

Getting into the sport in the early 1980s, when it was still white-dominated, their resilience paid off as he became among the best scrum-halfs in the city.

Born in 1965 in a family of nine and being the second oldest of seven brothers, Ndlovu developed a love for rugby after he was  introduced to the game by three expatriate teachers at Mpopoma High School, Peter McDonald Smith, McIntyre and Ronaldson.

He started playing rugby in 1982 to 1984 as a scrum-half at Mpopoma High School.

He also introduced rugby to his four brothers who all played for Highlanders Rugby Club, Nathaniel and Mandla who played as scrum-half, Lekang who was a flyhalf and Musilisi a flank.

One of his younger brothers, Lekang Ndlovu is now a coach and founder of IC Highlanders Rugby Club in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Thulani Ndlovu (top) as he is today and (bottom) during his heyday

Because of his small physique at the time he was not the first team’s scrum-half until the third game because coaches thought the bigger Luveve and Ihlathi players would squash him.

“On our third game against Njube, I was given a chance in the first team and the position was mine for three years until I was an Advanced Level pupil,” said Ndlovu.

In 1985 he joined Bulawayo Rhinos Rugby Club and from the first game he was first choice scrum-half.

Highlanders had started off as Bulawayo Rhinos and later changed to Western Suburbs.

“I was a one club person throughout, as we transitioned through name changes from Bulawayo Rhinos to Western Suburbs and finally Highlanders,” said Ndlovu.

In later years, he also played as a flyhalf and first centre but retired through injury as first choice scrum-half at the age of 35.

In 1987 he played for Matabeleland Under-21s. He would later refuse to play as an Under-21 at the age of 24, a sign that age cheating has been around for a while and in a number of sporting disciplines.

In 1988 Ndlovu made it to the Goshawks a Zimbabwe B team. He was at the peak of his playing career.

“I never got to play for Matabeleland A even though I got called up several times and refused, the last call-up I got was when I was 34 years old. I was expected to play with a 23-year-old flyhalf when there were younger scrum-halfs around, so

I turned down the offer,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu is a father to two children, Tumelo and Naledi.

He is married to Soneni.

After retiring from playing rugby he worked at Travel Goods Manufacturing as a sales and distribution manager before he was promoted to the position of technical production manager.

In 2008 he joined Kango Products.

Playing career:
Mpopoma High School – 1982 to 1984
Highlanders Club – 1985 to June 2000.
Positions – Scrum-half
Other positions – Flyhalf
Favourite Scrum-half – David Kirk (All Blacks 1985 – 1987)
Aaron Smith (All Blacks)
Brian Cogill (Zimbabwe Scrum-half)
Joost Van der Westhuizen (Springboks)

Share This:


We value your opinion! Take a moment to complete our survey

This will close in 20 seconds