A DARK cloud hung over local rugby at the weekend following the death of Zimbabwe national team star Sanele “Smiley” Sibanda.
The 29-year-old was involved in a fatal car accident on Friday.
His death was described by many of his friends and former teammates as a sad loss to the Zimbabwean rugby fraternity.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union announced the passing on of the towering lock, whom they described as a “gentle giant”, on their social media pages.
“It is with great sadness that the Zimbabwe Rugby Union announces the passing of Sanele Nkosana ‘Smiley’ Sibanda, a Sables stalwart in an unfortunate automobile accident.
“A gentle giant, ever smiling: Smiley.
“The ZRU would like to extend their condolences to the Sibanda family. May they be comforted during this sad time,” said ZRU in a statement.
Sibanda has been part of the national team establishment for the past few years. He played rugby for Old Miltonians, Matabeleland Busters, Durban Harlequins, College Rovers (SA).
He also played for Hull University RFC in 2019.
Condolence messages were trickling on from all corners as the rugby fraternity paid their last respects.
Sables head coach Brendan Dawson described the late Sibanda as a versatile and hardworking player.
“A gentle ferocious rugby giant. Ever smiling, unassuming, passionate, humble, great work ethic, hardworking, extremely talented and disciplined player.
“A vital versatile member of our Sables set-up who cemented his position in the team with his aerial ball retention acumen and hard-hitting runs and crunching tackles.
“Sanele was a true embodiment of resurgence of the Sables. He will be sadly missed,” said Dawson.
Sables manager, Jason Maritz, also sent his condolences on behalf of the national team players.
“Smiley, to say that we are deeply saddened by your untimely passing is an understatement,” he said.
“None of us will know why you had to leave us so soon, but your friendship will leave a lasting impression on many of our lives.
“We, your Sables family, thank you for running your race and sharing your story with us. “We will miss you and your big smile.” Cell C Sharks of South Africa, English side Hull University and Durban-based College Rovers also joined in mourning the gentle giant.
“It is with great sadness that we heard last evening of the passing of one of our 2014 team members, Sanele Nkosana Sibanda or “Smiley” as he was affectionately known…
“This ever-smiling, ever-jovial character from our Champion club College Rovers will be sadly missed by all that knew him and we at the Cell C Sharks honour him and pass our sincere condolences to his family, Club and friends!” Read a message from Cell C Sharks.
College Rovers Rugby Club weighed in.
“It’s with great sadness we announce the passing of a ex-Rovers boy who played few seasons at the club until 2017.Thanks for everything Sanele Smiley Sibanda.”
Hull University RFC said they cherished the moments they shared with the Zimbabwean during his stint