Kolisi drops ball on rugby transformation

FILE: Springboks captain Siya Kolisi speaks to the media during a press conference in Brisbane ahead of the Rugby Championship match against hosts Australia on Saturday September 7 2018.
FILE: Springboks captain Siya Kolisi speaks to the media during a press conference in Brisbane ahead of the Rugby Championship match against hosts Australia on Saturday September 7 2018.
Image: Mahlatse Mphahlele

Transformation has been the buzzword since the attainment of the democratic order in SA since 1994. The very Struggle for the liberation of the majority of the people of this country has all been about changing lives transformation, flinging open doors of opportunity that were once shut tight to deny the African the very right to be.

The failures of the new SA has often, and rightly so, been identified as the slow pace of transformation if not the utter lack there of.Apartheid had designs on every aspect of life, and sport was not to be left to its devices. Rugby, despite being a popular sport also played outside of the white community, was regarded as the Holy Grail of apartheid sports, at which blacks were not welcome.

Under the new order, it seemed those who administer the game wanted to keep that arrangement going a bit longer and sought to undermine efforts to make the game truly a people’s sport. Their lukewarm reception of transformation has been a fly in the ointment yet the nation has been largely patient with them.

So, when one Siyamthanda Kolisi was named the first black African captain of the Springboks last year, many applauded the move and read into it signs that there was progress ... somewhat.

Scepticism remained.

The sceptics would then have had reason to declare “we told you so” when details of Kolisi’s interview in Japanese media emerged this week. Kolisi was quoted as saying he didn’t support the quota system thrust upon SA rugby by politicians for its sheer refusal to transform. He is said to have said Nelson Mandela himself would not have supported quotas.

It might be that a very young head rests on Kolisi’s broad shoulders and he does not fully appreciate the responsibility thrust upon him beyond the rugby pitch by virtue of being the first black captain of the Springboks.

His is unchartered territory,shamefully so after almost 25 years of democratic rule, and given his sport’s intransigence.Given the context of a predominantly “verkrampte” rugby culture confronting black rugby players to this day, a black Springbok captain needs to carry the ball for transformation and not kick to touch to score easy points.

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