Johannesburg-based agency CSquared Productions has paid tribute to former SuperSport rugby commentator and colleague, Kaunda Ntunja, following his untimely death at the age of just 38.
Here, CSquared's Creative Director, Greg Viljoen, remembers Ntunja.
"Kaunda joined the CSquared Production family as a junior promo director in late-2009, after our SuperSport client at the time mentioned that an impressive young man had just introduced himself to him, looking for a job. He had been hired by SuperSport to be one half of their first ever Xhosa Rugby Commentary team with Eastern Cape rugby legend Makhaya Jack, but he also wanted to learn the ins and outs of on-air sports promotion. We were looking for an impressive junior promo director at the time, so naturally an interview was on the cards.
You couldn’t meet Kaunda and not be affected in some way. If you’re a passionate football supporter who doesn’t support Manchester United, he might have pissed you off a bit. If you weren’t a fan of Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal, same result. If you loved rugby, you’d realise that you were standing in the presence of no less than a guardian of the game who wore his rugby ball-shaped heart on his sleeve and tossed it around to see who would catch it and throw it back with interest.
So yeah, we were impressed when we met him. We, and I’m sure everyone else, could see that in time he would make a great contribution to whatever moved his heart, and he set his mind to, in particular from a black South African perspective. And boy, did he.
In 2011 Kaunda, with us, approached SuperSport to suggest that we create a promo campaign for their Xhosa Commentary offering. The concept we devised saw Kaunda and Makhaya commentating on moments in a regular Joe’s mundane life - having a sleepy breakfast, brushing his teeth, watering the garden and reading a book in bed. This was where we discovered that Kaunda had a natural flair for comedy, a skill that we drew on again a few times for future campaigns. Yes, he had a drama degree, but comedy is a gift that is only bestowed on a few lucky clowns. It’s a bit like rugby actually - you either know what to do with the moment, or you don’t. Kaunda had skills, man.
After a few years of bringing rugby to brilliant life with Xhosa commentary, Kaunda launched Phaka, the SuperSport rugby magazine show that kept Xhosa rugby fans up to date with the latest rugby news, stimulated fierce debate, and shone a much-needed spotlight on the grass-roots rugby stories of SA. In this role, Kaunda moved from a hugely-entertaining professional commentator to nothing less than a pioneer in his rugby development.
In his 38 short years the man achieved so much: the first black SA Schools captain, Junior Bok captain, Currie Cup-winning Cheetahs player, promo director, commentator, TV anchor, husband and father. With passion, pride and humility he carved out a beautiful path for himself and we are all better off for having been on the sidelines, watching his journey. But it’ll be the small moments we shared with him that we will miss the most - a shared laugh, a tussle of opinion about who should captain the Boks, a political debate (they were short), marvelling at a beautiful pass, kick, forehand, swing or side-step, and the many hours we sat in a small room, looking up at a blank white board, which I’m sure to Kaunda looked like an open field of dreams, as we mined our hearts and minds for new and meaningful ways in which to tell sport’s inspiring story.
Now, my friend, you are the story. And the legacy born of your footprints, is the stuff of legend.
Until we meet again, Chief, Zizi, dear Kaunda."