Sharks veteran Odwa Ndungane says an enduring ‘love for the game’ has been key to his longevity.
Ndungane made the move from the Bulls to the Sharks in 2005, and has loyally plied his trade in Durban ever since, going on to earn a total of 249 caps across Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.
Over this time, the 36-year-old has unequivocally established himself as a legend of Kings Park, with the winger having personified what it means to put the interests of the team first and foremost.
With this in mind, the Sharks announced this week that they will honour Ndungane in a ‘tribute match’ against Western Province at Kings Park this Saturday. The veteran is set to retire after this season.
Despite remaining as passionate as ever about the game, Ndungane said he felt the time was right to finally hang up his boots.
‘There’s no secret to it [his longevity], I’ve just never lost the love for the game over the years, and what’s made me enjoy what I’m doing is just the people around me,’ he told East Coast Radio.
‘I could have lost passion or interest somewhere along the way, but the management, players, coaching staff and everyone have just made this such an enjoyable experience. A lot of hard work has gone in to try and stay at the top of my game, but I’ve really just been so blessed, especially not having any serious injuries that have kept me out of the game for a long time.’
Although Ndungane said it would be impossible to single out one highlight from such a lengthy career, he suggested the Sharks’ win over Western Province in the 2013 Currie Cup final would always stand out.
‘There’s definitely more than one highlight over so many years at one place. I’ve been fortunate to be part of lots of successful teams, we’ve won trophies and made special memories. But winning the Currie Cup down in Cape Town was pretty special. Western Province were unbeaten that season and it was a pretty special win against all odds.’
The Sharks could well provide Ndungane with a triumphant farewell, considering that they have dominated this season’s Currie Cup, while earning the right to home-ground advantage throughout the playoffs.
‘We have a home semi-final already secured, so there’s not that sort of pressure [for this weekend’s final league game], but our aim is just to improve on each performance,’ Ndungane commented. ‘This Currie Cup is massive for us, if we can go all the way and take that momentum into Super Rugby next year, that would be incredible.’
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