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SA Rugby Pays Tribute To Two Former Players

Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, paid tribute to two former national players who recently passed away – SARU prop Matthew Napoleon and African Leopards centre Skhumbuzo Oliphant.

Napoleon, who played for SARU (1967 to 1970) and Western Province, passed away last Friday, only a few weeks after he had turned 78. He was regarded as one of the best front rankers of his generation and was also a very good boxer in his younger days.

Born in East London in 1942, Napoleon played for City & Suburban, Roslyns Rugby Club and represented Western Province at the Green Point Track in Cape Town under former SARU captain, Ebrahim Rinquest.

Napoleon finished his career playing social rugby at False Bay and has been honoured as a life-member of this Cape Town club.

“’Naps’ was one of those very rare props who could pack down on both sides of the scrum and it wasn’t surprising when he progressed to play for South Africa under the captaincy of Salie Fredericks,” said Mr Alexander.

“He was a tolerant person, showed respect for his fellow man and was known to have a calm head when necessary.”

Oliphant, from Eastern Province, represented the South African African Rugby Board national team from 1965 to 1968, playing in the midfield. He passed away on Tuesday.

Like his older brother, Eric Majola, Oliphant was a versatile sportsman who shone at cricket and rugby. He captained the New Brighton Cricket Club and played for Spring Rose RFC, that also produced big name players such as Peter Mkata, Makaya Jack, Lucky Menge and Solly Tyibilika.

“Skhumbuzo was a highly regarded and skillful centre and flyhalf in his hey-day and he was deservedly selected to play for the African Leopards in the late 60s,” said Mr Alexander.

“After his playing days he remained involved in the game and was respected to such an extent that he attended the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris in 2007 as a guest of our former President, Mr Thabo Mbeki.

“To the families, friends, former team-mates and other loved ones of Matthew and Skhumbuzo – may you find solace in this difficult time and look back on their lives with pride and happiness.

“Losing members of the rugby family is never easy and we mourn their loss with those closest to them,” concluded Mr Alexander.

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