The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Grant Khomo
Regarded as one of the best centre three quarters South Africa has ever had, Grant Khomo put the myth to rest that only white players could excel at rugby. He was also to become a much loved and respected president of the then South African African Rugby Board (SAARB). His attempts and those of his colleagues at forming a non-racial rugby board in South Africa are recorded in minutes of the SAARB.
They were always stifled by the laws of the time. Despite all odds, he and his team built a strong culture of quality rugby among black people, using schools as nurseries. He was voted the greatest rugby player by the Zonk magazine in 1961.
An extract from 11 Years of Springbok Rugby, states that "Inaugural Springbok captain, Grant Khomo, had not played rugby until he arrived at the University of Fort Hare. Steeped in sporting culture of Limpopo, the Mokopane-born athlete had excelled on the track, at soccer and tennis, representing his province in all three.
"Ever possessed of the belief that soccer players were rugby players in waiting, the university team, which was a steady source of players for Border, introduced Khomo to the game in the early 1940s."
Khomo not only developed into an outstanding centre, he so completely embraced the game that after his university days, he went back and captained a Transvaal team. It was largely made up of Cape-born players who had been recruited by the mining companies for their rugby prowess.
Khomo led the first selected African national team to a 14-3 victory over their coloured counterparts at the Port Elizabeth Agricultural Showgrounds in September 1950. He captained the team for the next two years, successfully shifting to fullback when the regular holder, Frank Koka, was unavailable as a result of a knee injury.
To the mortification of Eastern Province and Border supporters, Khomo was voted the Player of the Decade (1950) in a newspaper poll ahead of their own luminaries, eight years after he had stopped playing. He became a dedicated administrator, rising to the position of president of the SAARB, which was later renamed the South African Rugby Association.
Khomo also captained the Bantu national soccer team against a coloured side and held the national African tennis title. In 2003, Khomo became the first black rugby icon recognised by the South African Rugby Football Union, through a national institution, when the under-16 component of the schools’ interprovincial tournament was named the Grant Khomo Coca-Cola School Tournament.