Editor

Can we transform Springbok without blackening it?

In Politics, Society on November 17, 2012 at 5:40 AM

Given how sensitive many South Africans are especially on issues of race and transformation following the oppression majority people (blacks) in this country have endured over hundreds of years it is quite shocking that many (especially whites) still see “Transformation Talk” as “anti-white”.

That Nic Dawes’s Mail & Guardian newspaper yesterday had the balls to run with a headline “Why are Boks so white?” is quite encouraging and interesting (but wait until you see the comments below the article in a couple of days later), and one wonders just how many black people would not agree with the article.

And yes, I am no soccer or rugby fan nor do I follow any sports for that matter (although I once enjoyed watching Basketball at my sister’s recently) but I DO agree entirely with Lloyd Gedye’s in his M&G analysis on how many white people are anti-transformation especially on sports, specifically rugby. To many of them (if you’re not, like Gedye, that’s okay), when one – especially when it is us blacks – talks of transformation and as one person put it on the Super Sport article, this (transformation talk) is seen as painting everything black: from politics to public servants, to soccer, and now rugby, etc. Their reaction follow remarks by ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe who reportedly said black players should also be selected to the national rugby club, Springboks, if they are good enough to play at international level.

Mantashe said coaches select the “basic minimum” black players in the team and only relax, and thereby “overlook(ing) good players”, asking why we wait until there are no other players”. To him and many other black people who believe it’s high time we had transformation in our sports, the problem is that “coaches think this is a white sport and they meet the basic amount of players.” He accused coach Heyneke Meyer of being reluctant to select black players that deserved a place in the side. “My view is that the new coach is not keen on putting black players in the team, even those that have proven they are the best.”

Like I mentioned before, I am not sports fan nor do I know or claim to know anything about it let alone rugby or soccer – but I think what both Mantashe and Gedye are raising (on a Super Sport report and in M&G, respectively) is something that both the South African Rugby Union and other related sports organisations need to look into. As will be known by many that soccer, too, has too many black players than whites is also a serious issue that needs to be looked into, and I am not sure whether its transformation would be seen as anti-black by some white people. But whatever they case, it has to happen and soon.

To suggest that “all we need is to choose the best players in each position to represent South Africa” implies that many of those black players mentioned by Mantashe and Gedye are not good enough. Worse, to even insinuate that because “politicians in South Africa can’t even run the country properly [that] now this guy [Mantashe] wants to coach and select the Boks” and that it’s a “joke” is even worrisome, if not ill-informed.

This tendency of some white people who are seemingly anti-transformation on sports or anything else is quite disappointing. It perpetuates the perception of many of us black people that they do hold the view that apartheid has left majority of us very poor. Not that the ruling party has done anything better since. Hell, it’s like it’s us blacks who are encouraging them to wear t-shirts with this message:I [a white person] benefited from apartheid”. No, we are not and as many have observed, the majority of us are even poorer than we were during apartheid and for those of from in North West – things seemed better at the time of the Mangope times. But that’s a topic for another day.

Some of these white folks have insisted that Mantashe “focus on the real issue” like fraud, tenders handed to families of the black political black elites, that because BEE caused apartheid that’s where his focus should be. With this mentality, we won’t get a somewhat equal society we so wish for. All what they could make of Mantashe’s comments were arrogance, with some even saying the ruling party should “should shut up about sport and just focus on building thousands of RDP houses with 240 mill instead of our paving the way to our presidents household”.

To leave rugby transformation to Saru alone as many have suggested is not helping, and as Gedye suggested in his M&G piece, without Saru backing up the transformation in rugby (and South African Football Association in soccer) we have a hope in hell if we and the likes of Mantashe think we can transform what has long been known as a whiteman’s sports: rugby.

So the longer it takes to transform rugby – as with everything that is not representative of the South African society – the more we become “more disenchanted” and the more unequal a society we will continue to being. By transforming the Boks I am not saying we should blacken it as it is (apparently) done with soccer, etc.

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  1. South African rugby has not backed Ralepelle to deliver and has wasted a huge black rugby talent. It’s a disgrace.

  2. Like I mentioned before, I am not sports fan nor do I know or claim to know anything about it let alone rugby or soccer – but I think what both Mantashe and Gedye are raising (on a Super Sport report and in M&G , respectively) is something that both the South African Rugby Union and other related sports organisations need to look into. As will be known by many that soccer, too, has too many black players than whites is also a serious issue that needs to be looked into, and I am not sure whether its transformation would be seen as anti-black by some white people. But whatever they case, it has to happen and soon.

  3. Provincial and professional Super 14 teams include black players, but their absence at the highest levels of the game has led to demands from the ANC government for faster change, whatever the sporting consequences, in the name of “transformation” – a catch-all justification for interventionist measures to deal with the legacies of apartheid.

  4. Says Tshandu: “This is the key to the whole transformation dilemma … kids, black or white, will be at a distinct advantage if they go to a school where rugby is deemed important.

  5. South Africa was selected to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup , and there was a remarkable surge of support for the Springboks among the white and black communities in the lead-up to the tournament. This was the first major event to be held in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu had dubbed “the Rainbow Nation .” South Africans of all colors got behind the slogan coined by Edward Griffiths, then CEO of the rugby federation: “one team, one country”.

  6. Says Tshandu: “This is the key to the whole transformation dilemma … kids, black or white, will be at a distinct advantage if they go to a school where rugby is deemed important.

  7. Provincial and professional Super 14 teams include black players, but their absence at the highest levels of the game has led to demands from the ANC government for faster change, whatever the sporting consequences, in the name of “transformation” – a catch-all justification for interventionist measures to deal with the legacies of apartheid.

  8. As the World Cup unfolded, following a great inaugural victory by South Africa over Australia, the players as well as the white fans were struck by the growing enthusiasm of the hitherto rugby-illiterate black population.

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