CAPE TOWN – The hatred and racism in South African rugby is among the supporters and not within the Springbok squad. The pitchfork mentality on social media in relation to allegations of racism among the Springboks at the World Cup has been disgusting. The arrogance and ignorance continue to astound me.
I have never experienced a Springbok team as united as South Africans as this one, with each member of the squad having the utmost respect for the other’s culture and race.
The Springboks have been a joy to watch and any interaction with players, coaches or management, is one to be appreciated, especially if you have ever experienced Springbok and South African rugby in the early 2000s.
I was part of a Springbok set-up divided by provincialism, race, culture and class. It was an awful experience that culminated in the Geo Cronje and Quinton Davids racial incident that would precede the infamous Kamp Staaldraad. That was back in 2003.
I left Springbok rugby six weeks before the 2003 World Cup in Australia because I couldn’t be part of a squad that reinforced division and refused to transform.
But the class of 2019 can’t be compared in quality or class, when it comes to transformation and when it comes to the rugby produced.
The Springboks of 2019 are all about unity and inclusivity. They are all about being South Africans. They are about what is possible in the future and not about what was pitiful in the past. Blanket statements are being made about the Springboks and they are so inaccurate when it comes to labelling this squad as a relic from another age.
Individual accusations, as with the case of lock Eben Etzebeth, can’t simply be transferred to the squad.
Etzebeth has been accused of racism and hate speech. He has denied any wrongdoing. He has been subjected to an ongoing investigation. The SA Rugby Union is conducting an internal investigation, which doesn’t mean it is being done in-house. An independent, leading legal authority has been tasked with an examination of the allegations.
There has been calm within South African rugby in dealing with the allegations against Etzebeth and you’d expect this type of calm in a normal society, where people are deemed innocent until proven guilty.
There should also be calm among supporters and all South Africans.
Social media’s platforms invariably showcase the ugliest side of people. The bigots come out to play in the guise of fictional account names. The freedom fighters become terrorists and the terrorists declare themselves freedom fighters in the name of confrontation. The trolls thrive in this environment, to further disrupt and destroy any sense of national unity.
Social media opinion has been overwhelming that winger Makazole Mapimpi was racially snubbed in not being a part of a post-try celebration. Mapimpi released a video to say the snub was not racial but based on the celebrations being exclusive to the reserves.
Mapimpi was told by the masses that he was lying and that it was racial. The player’s opinion was secondary. It was madness.
Frans Steyn’s celebration of Damian Willemse’s first World Cup try against Canada reflected the spirit and bond within this squad. Take a look at that picture and it will tell you everything you need to know about the Springboks of 2019.
Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media.