Rugby no longer 'a religion'

Saturday's Rugby World Cup final would end an era in which the sport has been the "secular religion" of the Afrikaner, said novelist Justin Cartwright.

Saturday's Rugby World Cup final would end an era in which the sport has been the "secular religion" of the Afrikaner, said novelist Justin Cartwright.

Writing for the British Telegraph Online, the South African-born Cartwright said rugby had always been the Afrikaners' national game.

"No matter that their government was leading them down a path of isolation and stagnation, rugby provided support for the Afrikaners' belief that there was something elemental and biblical about their rugby heroes. Rugby was the secular religion," he said.

"In the background somewhere there were non-whites and liberal pinkos who favoured soccer. The few non-whites who appeared at international rugby matches with the sole purpose of cheering the opposition were pelted with bottles, chairs and stones. These brave people understood that rugby was much more than a game to the Afrikaners; it was in a sense their defining character."

Cartwright, who lives in London, said it was widely reported that the Springboks - who at present had the same number of likely black players as the English - would be required to present a multicoloured face to the world after the tournament.

Though it was intolerable to the government that rugby was so white, it was also difficult for whites to accept that the game they loved so passionately should be subject to quotas. "Springbok coach Jake White has reported that President Thabo Mbeki has encouraged him to win and forget about politics. But I get the feeling that he knows that this match is the last stand of the old era," Cartwright said ahead of the historic final.

The article provoked a flurry of online reaction, most of it abusive.

Among the comments posted on the Telegraph site were attacks on Cartwight's "deeply mediocre" talents, describing the article as "ignorant hogwash" and "amateur journalism by a patronising fool".

"Vasbyt" said that if Cartwright had come to South Africa on Saturday he would have seen that everyone was praying for a Springbok win.

"You will see that sport brings people together," said a person who signed himself as Joseph. - Sapa

X