TRIBUTES have been pouring in for former South African Rugby Union (Saru) star Morgan Cushe, who died aged 65 at Cuyler Clinic in Uitenhage after suffering from renal failure on Saturday.
Uitenhage Swallows Rugby Club loose-forward Cushe, affectionately known as "Ronksi " or "Koktjana" in rugby circles, was born in Kirkwood and started his rugby career with Swallows.
His dashing speed attracted the attention of national selectors and he was selected to play for the Leopards, the representative side of the black South African Rugby Board, one of the three segregated unions that governed the sport during apartheid.
Following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Stampo Cushe, he won his first cap for the Leopards in 1970. He played in all the games against overseas teams including England and Italy in 1973, the British Lions in 1974 and the French in 1975.
Cushe's childhood friend and Swallows lifetime president Smuts Ngonyama said he had been saddened by the death of Cushe. Ngonyama said he was in Cape Town when he heard of Cushe's illness and visited him at the hospital twice before he died.
"We grew up together in KwaLanga in Uitenhage during the late 1960s and we boxed and played rugby together. He was outstanding in rugby. We would spend a lot of time at his place listening to music and he taught me various genres and mentored me in rugby."
Former EP Rugby Union development programme coworker Themba Ledwaba said the death of Cushe was a great loss for Nelson Mandela Bay rugby. "We worked together as rugby development officers in this region and focused on recruiting players from school level. We worked very well with Cushe. He always applied professionalism and experience."
Swallows president Themba Maseti described Cushe as a rugby legend who played a big role in reviving the sport in the schools of Uitenhage.
Maseti said Cushe helped to coach the Swallows Rugby Club team after he retired as the EP Rugby Union development officer.
"He was a good role model to all the young players and he had a positive influence on the team.
"He introduced women's rugby in KwaNobuhle and his contribution will be missed."
Cushe is survived by his six children and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Babs Madlakane Hall in Matanzima Road, KwaNobuhle, tomorrow at 5pm.
Government dignitaries including Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, businessmen and sport leaders are expected to attend the funeral service on Saturday.