NEWS
11/13/2011 02:28 EST | Updated 01/13/2012 05:12 EST

South African Rugby Union shocked at reports ex-Springboks flanker Solly Tyibilika shot dead

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - The South African Rugby Union expressed shock and dismay at reports that former Springboks flanker Solly Tyibilika had been killed in a bar shooting on Sunday.

It was reported in South Africa that Tyibilika, 32, was shot and killed in a poor township on the outskirts of Cape Town.

A police spokesman confirmed a man in his early thirties died after two men entered a bar in Gugulethu, on the edges of the city, and "randomly shot" at customers on Sunday afternoon. Police would not yet release the name of the victim.

Police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk said two other men were wounded in the shooting and cases of murder and attempted murder had been opened against the suspects, who fled the scene.

Tyibilika played eight tests for South Africa between 2004 and 2006, scoring a try on debut against Scotland. He also played 16 times in Super rugby for the Durban-based Sharks, but his rise from a poor township similar to the one he reportedly died in to South Africa's national team was significant.

"Solly was a trailblazer among black African Springboks and if the reports are correct, to lose him so suddenly and in this brutal manner is very distressing," SARU president Oregan Hoskins said. "The casual disregard for life in our society is shocking.

"His emergence was a demonstration of what can be achieved when talent is combined with opportunity in what is always a very competitive position in Springbok rugby. I remember a very talented player and an immensely likable young man who rose far and fast to become a Springbok early in his career."

Tyibilika was born in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province, which has the strongest black following for rugby in South Africa. In other parts of the country, football is considered a more popular sport among black fans and rugby is generally followed by whites.

He was the first black African to score a test try for the Springboks, SARU said, with players like 1995 World Cup winner Chester Williams considered mixed-race in South Africa.

Tyibilika scored three test tries and played his last international against New Zealand in Pretoria in 2006.

He had been playing club rugby in Cape Town in 2011 following two years with second-division Currie Cup team Border Bulldogs in his native Eastern Cape.