THE South African Rugby Union today expressed its dismay at the reported death of former Springbok flanker Solly Tyibilika.
Media reported that the 32-year-old had been shot dead at a tavern in the Cape Town township of Nyanga on Sunday afternoon (local time). Police confirmed a shooting but had not formally identified the victim last night.
"Solly was a trailblazer among black African Springboks and if the reports are correct, to lose him so suddenly and in this brutal manner is very distressing. The casual disregard for life in our society is shocking ," said Mr Oregan Hoskins, president of SARU.
"His emergence was a demonstration of what can be achieved when talent is combined with opportunity in what is always a very competitive position in Springbok rugby. I remember a very talented player and an immensely likable young man who rose far and fast to become a Springbok early in his career."
Tyibilika was born in Port Elizabeth and first played rugby ay Loyiso High School in the Zwide Township. He made his professional debut for Griquas in 2001 before moving on to the Lions and the Sharks.
He made his Test debut in 2004 against Scotland in Edinburgh, earning the distinction of scoring a try on his first appearance to achieve the significant milestone in rugby history of becoming the first black African to score a Test try for the Springboks.
He played in eight Tests in total - scoring three tries - the last of them against New Zealand in Pretoria in 2006.
He moved to the Lions in 2007 but never settled in Johannesburg and re-emerged in his native Eastern Cape playing for Border between 2008 and 2010, captaining the Bulldogs from time to time. He had spent the 2011 season playing club rugby for Hamiltons in Cape Town.
He made 158 first-class appearances in all, scoring 24 tries, for Griquas, Sharks, Lions and Border, including 16 appearances in Vodacom Super Rugby for the Sharks.