Nkonki’s celebrated career – stretching from the mid-1970’s to mid-1980’s – included obtaining national representative colours for the Leopards of the South African African Rugby Board, the SA Africans and the South African Barbarians.

“We have lost a rugby icon,” said Mr Alexander.

“Timothy was a class act on the field and a true servant to the game, not only as a player, but also as the President of the Star of Hope rugby club in Uitenhage – a role he occupied until his passing.

“He was one of the first black players to feature in a multi-racial South African team and to represent the country outside of our shores, while his list of achievements include playing against the All Blacks and British & Irish Lions among other international sides, which many players – old and young – have only dreamed of.

“As the entire rugby fraternity mourns his loss, we wish his family, friends and colleagues strength during this trying time.”   

Nkonki made his debut for the Leopards in 1975 in an inter-racial Test against the South African Rugby Federation Proteas, while he also represented the SA Africans against France in Mdantsane and featured in a World XV against France in Paris that year, playing with former Springbok captain Morné du Plessis to mark the 75th anniversary of the French Rugby Federation.

He ran out again for the Leopards against the All Blacks in 1976 and represented the South African Barbarians – the first multiracial South African rugby team to tour outside the country – on their trip to the United Kingdom in 1979.

Another notable achievement during Nkonki’s rewarding rugby career was participating in the Springbok trials in 1978 ahead of the planned tour to France, which was subsequently cancelled. He continued to make his mark in 1980 where he featured for the Leopards against the British & Irish Lions in South Africa.

Nkonki also enjoyed a gratifying provincial career, representing Eastern Province from 1975 to 1981. He later moved into rugby administration taking up the role as the chairman and then President of his former club, the Star of Hope.

Nkonki is survived by his wife, Mawesi, as well as eight children and eight grandchildren.