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SA Rugby pays tribute to former president Ebrahim Patel

Ebrahim Patel, the first president of the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) and one of the driving forces behind the movement towards rugby union towards the end of the 20th centurye century, died early Monday morning at the age of 78 after suffering a stroke.

Paying tribute to Patel and the role he played in rugby in South Africa, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander, who visited Patel at his home on Sunday with a delegation of former players and administrators, said he was a “pioneer of non- racial rugby”.

After more than a century of dividing the game along racial lines in South Africa, rugby union was achieved nearly 30 years ago on March 20, 1992, following secret negotiations between various rugby authorities and the banned African National Congress (ANC) from 1988. .

The white South African Rugby Board (SARB), the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU), the South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), and the South African Rugby Association (SARA) came together in 1992 to form SARFU, under the joint presidency of Patel (SARU) and Danie Craven (SARB).

In addition to negotiating with the ruling authorities to bring unity to the game, Patel also ensured that SARU players were informed of the progress made and urged them to remain patient after many decades of sacrifice to achieve a to ensure a level playing field for all South Africans.

“His contribution to the game here in South Africa is on par with some of the best drivers we’ve ever had, and it was a remarkable achievement to bring all the rugby communities together after so many years of division,” said Alexander.

“He served the game on so many levels—as secretary, spokesperson, and later president—and it was only fitting that he and the late Dr. Danie Craven shared the position as SARFU’s first executive president in 1992.

“Mr Patel met representatives of the former SA Rugby Board and exiled leaders of the ANC, then a banned organisation, in London, Lusaka and Harare. He has worked incredibly hard to bring unity and will forever be remembered as one of the linchpins of the game in South Africa, as well as worldwide as he was also a member of the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby).

“Mr Patel was also an excellent orator, able to deliver brilliant speeches in both fluent English and Afrikaans, quoting from the Quran and the Bible. We must never forget what he did for rugby in South Africa and he deserves to be honored by future generations.

“He also brought me into the world of sports administration and I will be eternally grateful to him. I was still a player at Transvaal when our Vice President died, and Mr. Patel put me in that role because he believed in the importance of succession planning and building for the future.

“As a result, I have worked with him for 10 years at the former Transvaal Independent Rugby Football Union and I owe my involvement in the rugby administration to him.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Diana, his children Fatima, Nazley, Ashraf and Fuad, his grandchildren and other family, friends and loved ones at this time of mourning, and we pray that Almighty Allah grants him Jannat Firdaus. †

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