The Final Nail In The Coffin For South African Rugby

Zapiro rugby transformation cartoonAs a South African you have to put up with a lot of bollocks everyday (there is a much better Afrikaans word for bollocks), however we would like to keep this a family friendly website.

The amount of bollocks ordinary South Africans put up with is quite astonishing, but not only do they survive, they flourish. Whether it be producing some of the world’s most elite sportsmen/women on a limited budget (South Africa’s multiple Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Roland Schoeman needs to fund his own Olympic campaign this year, as SASCOC is not willing to fund him), making breakthroughs in health and science or just surviving which is a feat on its own, South Africans always seem to find a way.

However, a nation and its people can only take so much and I am afraid that the flame of survival which has kept South Africa, and more specifically South African sports flourishing is fast diminishing. A nation and its people can only take so much, before they start realizing they are fighting a lost cause.

What Are You On About?

If you are not a South African reader, chances are you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, since for reasons unknown it has not been covered by the international media, well let me bring you up to date. South Africa’s competent (read with a heavy dose of sarcasm) Sports and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula, a die heart Zuma and ANC supporter, has renewed his attempts to get the Springbok removed from the South African rugby team’s jersey.

In a recent sitting in Parliament Mbalula said; “For successful transformation, all national teams must play with a single emblem.”

This is the same guy who has threatened (now enforced) the South African Rugby Union (SARFU) with a 50% black selection policy by 2019, and the same guy who lobbied for the Springbok to be moved from the left side (on the heart of the jersey) to the right side.

Well dear readers, he (Mbalula) has been successful in getting the Springbok moved from the heart of the jersey, he has been successful in getting SARFU to implement a 50% black selection policy by 2019 (enforcing coloured based selection policy instead of merit, which is completely against the IRB’s racial laws bydaway)  so you can guess what is going to come from his efforts of renaming the Springboks, and removing the iconic symbol from the jersey, it is NOT a question of if but rather when.

It is not about Sport, it’s about Self Enrichment

Before I continue I would like to point out that this is a sports blog, we at the Sport Freak are not very fond of politics and we certainly have no ambition to move the blog in a political direction however, to understand why the current government is so hell bent on getting rid of the iconic Springbok emblem, it is necessary to take a brief tour through the current and complicated South African political landscape.

Currently South African politics is at a tipping point, the once proud and honourable ANC (African National Congress) government has been in a steady downward spiral since 2007, with the world’s most corrupt president leading the downfall.

Since Zuma has been elected as president the ANC has been decreasing in popularity year upon year, however Zuma and his ANC will do anything to remain in power, for their own financial gain (the man (Zuma) is the world’s highest paid president, rather shocking for a country where 35% of the population lives below the poverty line.)

Sadly, instead of using techniques to uplift the people, trying to solve the country’s challenges (many which were inherited from the Apartheid regime, admittedly) to win back the hearts and minds of the people, the ANC is reverting to scare tactics. Trying to divide a country, who just started to reconcile, back along racial lines, and that is where the removal and renaming of the Springbok comes in.

Simply put the ANC members currently lobbying for the removal of the Springbok emblem says it represents the former apartheid regime and slows down transformation…confused? Don’t worry so are most sane people.

The above may or may not make sense to international readers and it is certainly not possible to summarise the current complex political landscape of South Africa into 1 or 2 paragraphs however, I would like to re-iterate we are a sports blog and do not want to get drawn into a political debate, we merely want to provide a bit of background for international readers.

The Irony Of Removing The Springbok Is Stunning!

Nelson Mandela loved the Springbok rugby team

Mandela loved the Springbok

The irony of it is stunning though, that humble and possibly greatest statesman the World has ever known, Nelson Mandela, loved the Springbok emblem. He loved the Springbok rugby team, and realised the importance it played in unifying a once divided country. Who would ever forget that beautiful moment when Nelson Mandela walked onto Ellis Park with a Springbok jersey on his back, with 60’000 people, both black and white, chanting “Nelson, Nelson.”

You see Mandela could have easily gotten rid of the Springbok jersey had he wished to do so, however he was smart enough to not do it since Mandela realised the importance it played in the reconciliation of South Africa, that and also the fact that he genuinely loved the sport and respected the proud tradition the Springbok rugby jersey carried.

What is currently enraging rugby supporters in South Africa, is the fact that the great Mandela had absolutely no problem with the Springbok emblem or the national rugby team being called the Springboks, yet a bunch of no name chronies, like SA Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula who was only appointed to strengthen Jacob Zuma’s grip on power is calling for it to be removed. Someone who clearly doesn’t care about the game, the tradition it carries or the part it plays in South African unity but just doing it for the sake of self enrichment, 5-minutes of fame and keeping his number one happy, kinda pathetic is it not?

So What Would Happen If When They Remove The Springbok From South African Rugby

I mentioned in the start of this post that South Africans have the ability to flourish even in the harshest of conditions. I then went on to say that despite South Africans ability to overcome hardship and succeed even when the odds are firmly stacked against them is commendable.

I have to admit however that I am worried that the removal of the Springbok, combined with a politically forced selection policy, getting enforced in 2019, might very well be the downfall of South African rugby for good.

Judging by the South African blogosphere and the numerous social media posts and comments which has surfaced over the past months, it is clear that the removal of the Springbok from South African rugby might very well be the final nail in the coffin for South African rugby. Already the most die heart of Springbok Protea Rugby supporters are starting to plan mass boycotts of South African rugby games, and the whispers of who will be their newly adopted international rugby team is becoming ever louder, something which was unthinkable only a few years back.

But It’s just a name

Many might read this and think, I am being a bit over dramatic since it is just a logo and a name, but the truth is it is so much more than that. Can you imagine if the All Blacks changed their name to the Silver Ferns? Can you imagine if the All Blacks enforced a 50% maori selection policy? It will be chaos in New-Zealand.

However apart from the above it is the history, the tradition that goes with the Springbok name and logo. More than 5 generations has bled for the Springbok, 2 World Cups have been won under the Springbok, countless tests have been won under the Springbok, and perhaps most importantly the Springbok jersey has the ability to bring out the very best in the privileged few who have gone on to become a Springbok, it is something most South African boys dream of since they are old enough to walk.

Conclusion

As mentioned in a previous post South African Rugby’s (SARU’s) racial discriminating selection policy has already been passed. As a result more and more young, talented South African rugby players are reluctantly leaving their native South Africa in search of equal opportunity in Europe, the outflux will continue and with the removal of the iconic Springbok it might very well signal the end of South African rugby being referred to as a powerhouse of world rugby.

Support will dwindle, bad administration and self enrichment will be in the order of the day and ultimately South Africa’s richest sports union will go bankrupt. Until then we can only enjoy what is left of a once proud rugby nation.

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