Local rugby is still riddled with racism like a cancer

The last time I paid a visit to Ellis Park Stadium to watch a rugby match was August 19 2000.

The last time I paid a visit to Ellis Park Stadium to watch a rugby match was August 19 2000.

It's not that I've never received an invitation or been interested in a Super 14 or international match since then.

It's not that the game I watched that day - South Africa vs New Zealand - was disappointing. Far from it.

Those who follow rugby will know it doesn't get bigger than the Boks taking on the All Blacks. The haka, the singing of the national anthems. You can drink deep on the atmosphere alone, never mind from the numerous bars scattered beneath the stands selling copious amounts of liquor.

That Saturday was no exception. The rugby was frantic, with the 57000 crowd cheering their heroes until eventually the Boks ran out winners 46-40.

It was a long walk back to my car that chilly evening. But along the way I made a decision: never again would I return to Ellis Park to watch a rugby match. The reason wasn't because my "home boys" had lost. It's just a game.

No, I decided never to return because of the disgustingly racist behaviour I witnessed that day by sections of the crowd directed at certain members of the All Black team (in other words players of colour).

I was reminded of this when the latest race row hit rugby this week.

It would be unfair to cast judgment on suspended Gauteng Lions forward coach Leon Boshoff before the proper procedures are followed, but this is the latest in a long list of race-fuelled incidents to hit unions in South Africa.

Last year a black woman, Ziningi Shibambo, was hounded from Ellis Park amid a barrage of racial abuse.

Just two weeks earlier, parts of Cape Town's Newlands Stadium were turned into a battlefield as coloured and white spectators clashed during a match.

The response of authorities is always predictably pathetic. A R10000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thugs; T-shirts and stickers bearing some weak slogan like "Stamp Out Racism". Heaven help us if that's the best they can do!

Local rugby is still riddled with racism like a cancer. If you don't believe me take a trip to the Soweto Rugby Club in Dobsonville and check out the facilities - floodlights that don't work, playing fields more suitable for grazing cattle than playing a game of rugby, and no proper changing rooms.

Considering they belong to one of the richest rugby unions in the world, I'm not surprised they want to part ways with the Gauteng Rugby Union.

What sickened me though that Saturday on my way back was the in-your-face racism shown by more supporters than we care to acknowledge.

I don't have to be fully bilingual to know when a person is spewing bile.

Never mind the intended All Black target (of Tongan heritage) was a person who will go on to be known as one of the sport's all-time greats and become the leading try-scorer in World Cups.

Never mind the target was battling to overcome a kidney disease that would leave him virtually a cripple at the end of his career.

Never mind that this player had fallen in love with a South Africa during the 1995 World Cup and went on to marry a local girl from Kimberley.

All that paled into insignificance when I saw the hurt etched on his face when confronted with such racism.

That player was Jonah Lomu.