Siya Kolisi has a demon of racial history to slay

There is always the question of merit hanging over black rugby players in the team that Siya Kolisi captains, the writer says.
There is always the question of merit hanging over black rugby players in the team that Siya Kolisi captains, the writer says.
Image: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

There are commonalities that often weigh over black lives that make us feel like we don't matter.

Be it poverty, discrimination or even death itself, when a black youth learns its first steps it is not a rosy walk down the park or the eventual jog around the rugby field.

It's a barefooted trek through hardship and sometimes a bittersweet failure where even the merit of perseverance breeds no happy ending.

Our very first Springbok captain, Siya Kolisi, will pull up his already high socks for the 2019 Rugby World Cup final this weekend and face this very possible Shakespearean tragedy.

Unlike his white teammates and predecessors, Siya has a rather large yoke on his shoulders; the hardships of his poverty-stricken youth in Zwide, Port Elizabeth, a teenage mother who passed away before Siya himself was barely an adult and a questionable intellect that has been mocked since his comments on nutrition.

Another weight he has to add is the racial the quota system, something many Springbok supporters hate with a passion. Whether it's a Leon Schuster movie or a fan whose jersey denounces the system that gives equal opportunities to players of colour, a loss by the Springboks is a loss for any other young Siya Kolisi.

As a lover of pop culture and an occasional sports fanatic I can't help but find similarities between Siya and the Japanese animation Dragon Ball Z's main character Goku.

Dragonball Z follows the determined jock, who trains for no reason and juggles the difficulties of being a deadbeat dad and fighting foes, including colonialist lizards, trendy teen androids, a human consuming cockroach and even a large piece of gum.

Beneath the plot-holes and casual patriarchy, paedophilia and kidnapping, Goku's tail (pun intended) is that of facing adversity.

Having lost both his parents and then his guardian Goku learns to fend for himself. Never ashamed of his upbringing, he also carries with him the humility of a village life.

While Kolisi's biggest foe at the moment is a Rugby World Cup final, Goku went up against one of the colonial lizards named Frieza. Obsessed with power, genocide and wine, Frieza spent most of his time fighting Goku with a mouthful of racial slurs that would make a crowd at a Steve Hofmeyr concert blush.

While their battle is currently known as the longest and most iconic in anime history it is also a moment that shone a light on Goku as a relatable character for black youths. Burdened by a past where his culture has been erased he faces a foe who has access to it and benefits from its destruction.

When Frieza eventually kills his best friend in battle, Goku who has spent the hour (for viewers this was about six months) pushing the limitations of his body, completely loses it. Goku transforms into the alluring form of what is known as a Super Saiyan (but if you ask me, he pulls a Michael Jackson and turns into a blue-eyed Caucasian man) eventually beating the privilege out of Frieza.

Thwarting Frieza was monumental in terms of fans favouring Goku, a man who proved that poverty and a lack of a "normal" upbringing should not get you down.

I can't help but look within the squad itself and see how Makazole Mapimpi himself needs this win. There is always the question of merit hanging over black rugby players and with his reaction to the Bomb Squad viral video, perhaps the next Mapimpi would blow whistles in the exclusionary cliques in spaces where black rugby players are constantly excluded.

This is especially important for Mapimpi who did not even train on the schooling privileges as Siya.

A Springboks win is not just important in transforming Kolisi into our very own Super Saiyan but transforming this country into one of racial diversity rather than the blindness that came from 1995.

There is a lot of change needed in SA and a victorious Springboks match would be testament to that.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X