Utterly devastated by this devilish thing called death, the local sport fraternity and the rest of the world woke up to the devastating news about the tragic death of Namibian rugby icon Gerhard Mans. The former Namibian captain died instantly after he was hit by a speeding vehicle on the Western Bypass on Wednesday morning while cycling. Mans will be best remembered as the first player to captain South West Africa (SWA)/Namibia in two different eras, first in Apartheid South West Africa (SWA), and then in a democratic Namibia in 1990. He marshalled his motherland in the historic match against the visiting Zimbabwean side in Namibia’s first truly international test that marked the country’s democracy in 1990. The hosts won by 33-18, with Mans also registering his name on the scoreboard with a brilliant try. The former Wanderers back also spearheaded South West Africa (SWA) to promotion from the lower tier South African Provincial Sport Pienaar Cup, to the Currie Cup-B section, subsequently earning promotion to the elite South Africa Provincial Currie Cup A- Division on their first attempt. Upon his retirement from playing competitive rugby, the former Wanderers turned his hand in to cycling and was a regular competitor in the elite age group competitions until his untimely death. Less than a year after the sad passing of fellow FNB Wanderers team members, in the shape of scrumhalf Wardo Nell, and the White Stallions’ long serving president Oom Neels Dodds, Mans is the third valuable member from the close-knit White Stallions stable to pass on in the last couple of months. May all their souls continue rest in power. As has become customary practice to honour our unsung athletes, present and posthumously, New Era Sport dedicates in today’s instalment of your favourite weekly sport feature Tales of the Legends to this great son of the soil whose precious life has been tragically abbreviated.
The name Gerhard Mans is synonymous with Namibian rugby, as the much-adored moustachioed high flying winger will go down in history as one of the most accomplished oval ball chasers to have ever graced local rugby pitches.
During his flawless rugby playing career, Mans was a valuable member of the all-conquering South West Africa (SWA) side in the mid 80s, and will be best remembered for his eye-catching performance when the Namibian amateurs stunned the South African rugby followers by stopping hosts Western Province right in their tracks at their fortress Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on a rainy Saturday afternoon in 1988. Final score: South West Africa (SWA)/Namibia 24-21 Western Province.
Mans is not only known in rugby circles as a phenomenal winger, he was much adored by many and will go down in history as one of the finest athletes of all time.
Playing for the youthful giant killers, famously known as the Biltongboere, under the watchful eye of the late Oom Henning Snyman, Mans formed an amazing telepathic partnership with rugby greats, Andre Stoop, Shaun McCully, Willem Maritz, Sarel Losper, Leon Stoop, Bassie Buitendag, Chris Senekal, Heinrich ‘Soppies’ de Waal, Arra van der Merwe, and Eden Meyer.
Who would ever forget that breath-taking solo try against Northern Transvaal (Blue Bulls) in Pretoria, when the stocky Namibian winger masterfully zig-zagged his way between bemused defenders to dot down a one of the best tries.
Even though the South West Africa amateurs lost the tie at the intimidating Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, Mans certainly left a long-lasting impression after the match.
Such was his influence and consistent displays that he was selected for the star-studded Barbarians team alongside compatriot Andre Stoop. Mans was a product of the revered Wennie du Plessis High School in Gobabis before he relocated to the city of bright lights (Windhoek).
Mans wasted little time and found suitable shelter with Pionierspark outfit Wanderers Rugby Club, where he played his club rugby, winning several silverwares whilst wearing the captain’s armband with distinction.
He would go on to score an astonishing tally of six tries against a hapless Portugal in an 86-9 thrashing at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek, to announce Namibia’s arrival on the international rugby arena.
His death has left many people with more questions than answers. It was reported by the Informante that an eye witness, and fellow cyclist, Jaco Lambrecht, a close buddy of the deceased who happened to be amongst a number of cyclists on the Western Bypass when the accident happened, narrated the sad moments of the unfortunate accident.
A Botswana national behind the wheel of a white BMW sedan without number plates and no license disc approached the unsuspecting cyclists at high speed.
“I turned around at the Okapuka bridge, desperate to catch up with him (Gerhard), so that we could ride together to where Andre was just before the Elisenheim bridge, I could clearly see Gerhard in front of me. I passed under the bridge and waved at Gerhard Junior (Mans’ son), as he went past me on the other side of the road en route to the Okahandja roadblock. Next moment, there was commotion on the road in front of me with a Police kombi hurriedly pulling onto the road sideways,” reported Informante.
“I immediately saw Gerhard lying motionless on the shoulder of the road. Andre came over to me asking whether it was Gerhard senior to which I replied in affirmation. Another cyclist who had a punctured tyre stood next to Gerhard, and witnessed everything that happened at that moment.
“He told Andre and I that the driver in the white BMW was speeding on the Western Bypass with police cars chasing him after spotting him for chatting on his mobile phone. Up next, he swerved over the yellow line hitting Gerhard at full speed. The car came to a standstill almost 100m away from the scene of the accident, as police were closing him down.”
The eye witness, according to Informante, further told Lamprecht that the cops conducted an on-the-spot alcohol blow test on the driver that read 0.23. The driver of the unlicensed car was subsequently arrested on the scene.