Liston Ntshongwana dies

Sat, 23 Dec 2017 16:38
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Liston Ntshongwana, great forward and captain in his day, died in the week running up to Christmas 2017.

He was a tower of strength to African rugby in South Africa in the early 1970s, a burly, bearded man, a tough eighthman. His first name was really Mpenduli. Liston was a nickname, taken from Sonny Liston, who became the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1962.

After playing school rugby at St John's College in Umtata (now Mthatha), an Anglican foundation in 1879 originally as a theological college, Ntshongwana went on to the University of Fort Hare in Alice with alumni list of African leaders, amongst them Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Desmond Tutu, Oliver Tambo, Seretse Khama, Govan Mbeki, Kaiser Mtanzima, Chris Hani and Robert Sobukwe.

Athletic Ntshongwana got on with rugby - a big, speedy man whose skills extended to long-range goal-kicking. He played for Fort Hare and, from 1970 to 1974, for Border. 

In 1972 he made his debut for the African Springboks against the Federation at Wolfson Stadium in East London. Not only did he make his debut but he also captained the side with Dougie Dyers as the opposing captain. This was after he had been a reserve when the team played England.

In all he played in seven Tests for the African Springboks.

In 1974 Ntshongwana was in the team that toured Italy. He was not initially chosen as Henry Ketelo was the captain, but when Ketelo damaged a wrist in a club match, Ntshongwana came into the side and was made captain. The team of 25 players would play six matches on the tour, including a Test in Brescia. They lost to Lazio, Brescia and It alky (25-10), drew with Italy Under-23 and beat the Zebre and the Dogi in Padua.

Later in 1974, Ntshongwana was in the team that played the mighty 1974 B&I Lions at Sisa Dukashe Stadium in East London. The Lions won 56-1`0 but the try of the match belonged to Charles Mgweba. The Africans ended the season  with a 21-13 victory over the Federation at Goodwood Showgrounds, Dyers's last match for the Federation.

In 1975, Ntshongwana's last season, he was in the team that lost 34-9 to France but ended his career on the winning side when they beat the Federation 18-12 in Port Elizabeth.

Playing days over, Ntshongwana became an ambassador for the Trans and then a successful businessman.