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Rugby

'I knew I wasn't the most talented player', Ndungane on his rugby career

15 October 2017 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES

How fulfilling has your career been with the Sharks?
It's been beyond my wildest expectations to have represented this union in so many games, whether it be the Currie Cup or Super Rugby.
It's something I never thought I'd achieve. It's been an amazing and incredible journey. I've won and lost some trophies but it's been incredible.
Your twin brother's (Akona) Springbok career entirely preceded yours. How important was that for your family?
The big thing was for us to get an opportunity to play together but that never came. It was just incredible we got the opportunity to represent South Africa when we got selected. We were happy for each other and I knew my time would come but I hoped my time would come when he was still there.
Anyway, we both got to play for the Boks and that's something we always wished for when we started playing.Who was the better rugby player?
(Laughs) I'm the last man standing and that should tell you something. Akona, though, was an out-and-out finisher. I just managed to play as long as I did because I worked hard because I knew I wasn't the most talented player. It was a case of working harder to get better and do better than those who were more talented than me. Akona was one of those who were talented alongside being a quality finisher.
How beneficial was the friendly rivalry for your careers?
It's something we'll look back on, marvel and laugh about what we've achieved, coming from humble beginnings in Mthatha. We played for two of the biggest franchises in South Africa over a long period. It's something that we're proud of. Whenever we played against each other there was always laughter as the family watched together.
Akona knew that most of the family were Sharks supporters. It was just a case of parents taking sides. When your team lost, you knew it was coming.
How much of an inspiration was your late father to you?
He was massive in our lives and he was always there. His support was something that always got us going. He taught us many things, with the most important being not giving up, and fighting for what you want. He called after each game and had his own post-match analysis.How many times did people struggle to tell the difference between you and Akona?
People struggled and whenever I was in Pretoria, people didn't even think twice. They called me Akona and I can understand because it's very difficult with identical twins. I actually appreciate it now with the Du Preez - Jean-Luc and Daniel - twins because the only time you can learn to tell twins apart is when you spend time with them.
Any regrets over the Sharks' famous Super Rugby final failures?
Those were huge disappointments because the hard work lay in getting to the finals. Super Rugby is one of those tough competitions where you have to do everything in your favour to get the home final.
However, I'm still proud of our Super Rugby achievements.
How did you feel when then Sharks coach John Plumtree made you come off the bench for your 100th Super Rugby match against the Queensland Reds in 2013?
I was quite disappointed. I would have loved to have started that game but the older I've become, the more mature I've become and you'll know you won't get everything that you want. You have to understand the team is bigger than any individual.
You were in the last Springbok side that beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2009. How does that result resonate with you now?I can still remember that game like it took place yesterday because we lost to Australia the week before and we had to beat New Zealand to win the Tri-Nations.
No one gave us a chance because losing to Australia wrote us off completely. We had such a good team and a wonderful coaching staff. It was special.
What are your retirement plans?
I'm going to join Sharks chief executive Gary Teichmann's company in construction as we opened a company in 2015. I'm going to be in the construction industry.
My brother and I have also started a sports management agency so we can give back to the youngsters who are coming through...

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