Leaping bok gets shifted

South Africa's rugby team might not be the Springboks any more as critics who say the 102-year-old emblem smacks of the apartheid era win the day.

South Africa's rugby team might not be the Springboks any more as critics who say the 102-year-old emblem smacks of the apartheid era win the day.

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) and the sports ministry have agreed that the team will adopt the symbol used by all the other national teams, the King Protea flower.

The leaping antelope will simply move to the right side while the protea occupies the left, Saru announced this week and parliamentary sports committee chairman Butana Komphela agrees.

"The sign carries a long history of racial divisions," Komphela told AFP.

But some argue that racial barriers were broken in 1995 when former president Nelson Mandela lifted the World Cup trophy wearing a Bok jersey after South Africa's victory.

Komphela said Mandela's action was a matter of convenience rather than conviction.

Saru says the "Springbok" was born in 1906 when a nickname-less, whites-only national rugby side toured Britain.

During a trip to the London zoo, the visitors spotted a herd of the antelope and decided to name themselves Springboks.

In the apartheid years, blacks were barred from wearing the jersey and some South Africans say the springbok is a painful reminder of the past.

Komphela says changing the Springbok emblem is long overdue, but not everyone agrees - and the debate doesn't divide clearly along racial lines.

A sports convention last October passed a resolution to remove the emblem, sparking an outcry from supporters of the national rugby team, which is a source of deep pride, especially for Afrikaners.

Former Saru president Silas Nkanunu believes changing the logo will not address the real issues affecting the sport's development and its promotion among blacks.

"The move smacks of political power play," Nkanunu said.

"Black clubs are in dire need of financial assistance, which is slowing the development of talent," said Nkanunu.

He said he did not understand how the emblem was racially divisive, saying some black players had adopted the Springbok even before South Africa's race-based rugby bodies unified into a national group in the early 1990s.

Despite the change, Saru spokesman Andy Colquhoun said he expected few people would stop calling the team the Springboks.

The timing of the change to the new jersey is still under discussion, mainly for logistical reasons. - Sapa-AFP

X