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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

‘We feel seen,’ says Kolisi as he hails late Ntunja and Xhosa commentary

"We appreciate it. We feel seen. It makes a difference, in the community now a lot more people watch rugby just to hear the commentary.”

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi has hailed the impact by the late SuperSport IsiXhosa commentator Kaunda Ntunja and his colleagues on making this country’s black rugby players feel relevant.

Kolisi will lead the Boks for the 50th time against Tonga on Sunday evening in Marseille when they play their final Rugby World Cup pool stage match.

In Kolisi’s 49 previous Tests as captain there have been many iconic moments; one that stands out being his debut as team leader in 2018 against England where the Boks would go on to win 42-38 at Ellis Park.

What stands out about the match is the opening monologue delivered by the late IsiXhosa commentator Ntunja.

The introduction of Kolisi as the first black Springbok captain by Ntunja captured the moment and its significance for black people perfectly.

Speaking to the media this last week, Kolisi reminisced about the introduction Ntunja gave him and even compared him to English football commentator Peter Drury.

“He’s always in our thoughts,” said Kolisi about Ntunja.

“I think he took his style from Peter Drury. He studies you, and he talks about you, and he talks about your history. He makes an effort. He made me feel so special. I know he did one for [Makazole] Mapimpi, he did one for Lukhanyo [Am] … we felt seen, we felt important, but in our own language. That is a big thing, that is something that you can’t buy,” he said.

Ntunja, who was a former SA Schools captain, passed away in 2020 at the age of 38.

In 2009, Ntunja, alongside Makhaya Jack, launched IsiXhosa commentary for SuperSport. Years later it would go on to reach great highs and gain popularity among people of different cultures in South Africa.

Xhosa commentary

Kolisi shared his views on how IsiXhosa commentary has contributed to representation in rugby and growth among black people.

“For black people in South Africa, I don’t think most watched rugby until Xhosa commentary became a big thing.

“Listening to a sport that most people weren’t allowed to play for a very long time, and now you hear it in your own language and see it represented. It’s so big. Then you see people that look like you playing it.

“It’s still going on now. We see it and we appreciate it. We feel seen. It makes a difference, in the community now a lot more people watch rugby just to hear the commentary,” he said.

Kolisi revealed that some of his teammates watch their tries in IsiXhosa commentary due to its expressive nature.

“We love listening to it. Some of the players always listen to the tries in Xhosa commentary because the commentary is so dramatic and (how they) express themselves, it’s so dramatic,” Kolisi said.