Planet Sport. In South Africa, is rugby still white?

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The South African rugby team, in front of a Nelson Mandela status in Cape Town, on November 11, 2019, after their victory at the World Cup. (NIC BOTHMA / EPA)

Planète Sport, the summer meeting which explores subjects on the border between sport and politics, takes us today to South Africa. Twenty-five years after the “Rainbow nation” of Nelson Mandela, has South African rugby got rid of its image of “White sport” ? A program to transform racial representation into the national team has been implemented but the subject is still sensitive to the country of the Springboks, who won their third world title last year in Japan.

How beautiful and mixed these Springboks were during the last World Cup, a rigorous balance of colors represented on the ground, a “Rainbow nation” as Nelson Mandela would have dreamed of? The third row and captain Siya Kolisi is not so sure. “Mandela, does he think, would not have adhered to the quota policy imposed by the government. You cannot solve this problem with numbers. ” A few months before the competition, a storm of criticism fell on the first black captain of the Springboks who conceded: “Playing for South Africa is very hard. We want to win while ensuring the transformation. ”

Springboks doomed to victory to ensure the success of rugby’s transformation and embody the model of a unified nation. All based only on simple quotas? The bet is rather dangerous. What would have happened if the Boks hadn’t won this World Cup?

“There has always been a form of resistance to change. The transformation, especially among some whites, has always been seen as a punishment “, explains Eduard Coetzee, former player. Before taking the helm of the Durban Sharks, he made a detour to the university to write a thesis on the methods of transformation. According to him, we must go beyond imposing quotas, and that is what the Sharks are doing. Each newcomer must embrace the guiding thought of the club, that of diversity. And it all starts with the obvious: speaking the same language.

“In South Africa there are 11 different languages. If you come from the West, speak Afrikaner and the player next door speaks Zulu, integration becomes harder if not everyone communicates in english analysis Eduard Coetzee. We regularly go to townships, and we go there together. Not just with white players promoting their sport. We go there with players who come from these townships, he explains.

If involvement is at the heart of your organization, in the team, the management, the administration, the doctors, your satisfaction lasts much longer than a simple victory in a match. And if this model catalyzes attention in your city, region, country, then you can make a lasting difference

Eduard Coetzee

to franceinfo

This vision carried by the Durban Sharks is still very isolated. Yet it is the one that goes in the direction of history. Mandela said: “Sport has this advantage of being able to unite people who could not be brought together by politicians and that is perhaps even more important here than in any other country.”

By designating rugby as the prime contractor for South African unity, Nelson Mandela also transmitted to the Springboks a responsibility that is still very heavy to bear in the country still considered today as the most unequal in the world.



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