A gi­ant flip at Madiba

In 1995, Mondli Makhanya booed them, only to cheer them on in 2007, but now he has de­cided that the Spring­boks gen­uinely don’t rep­re­sent black hopes

CityPress - - News -

One of my in­deli­ble mem­o­ries of the 1995 rugby World Cup is that in the group of 15 to 20 peo­ple who crammed into a friend’s lounge to watch the demo­cratic re­pub­lic’s first global cup fi­nal, there was only one per­son sup­port­ing the Spring­boks. He was the only one who jumped for joy when the home team did some­thing spec­tac­u­lar or clasped his head with both hands when they fluffed it. When the fi­nal whis­tle blew to sig­nal that Joel Stran­sky’s drop kick had sealed the Webb El­lis Cup, he was a lonely soul among coun­try­men who could not ap­pre­ci­ate the his­toric mo­ment.

So hos­tile was the group to the home team that, dur­ing the singing of the an­thems, one among our num­ber sug­gested that if you locked the start­ing line-up in a room and beat the hell out of them one would re­veal the where­abouts of Stanza Bopape, the anti-apartheid ac­tivist who dis­ap­peared in the 1980s.

Like many fel­low South Africans, I just could not bring my­self to sup­port a team that re­flected our past rather than the fu­ture we wanted to build.

With the exit of Louis Luyt from the rugby scene and the prom­ise of trans­for­ma­tion over the years, I worked hard to get with the pro­gramme. I did even­tu­ally come round and, when Jake White and John Smit led the Boks to vic­tory in 2007, I, too, gy­rated. But a more hard-headed friend, who shall re­main name­less, de­cided to co­in­cide an over­seas trip with that fi­nal so that he would be guar­an­teed avoid­ing, in his words, the nau­se­at­ing sight of blacks cel­e­brat­ing a Spring­bok vic­tory.

By 2011, I was a full con­vert to the Bok cause, and so I felt the crush­ing emo­tion of that semi­fi­nal exit.

Call me schiz­o­phrenic, but I have now gone full cir­cle and am back to 1995. As the Spring­boks head off to Eng­land to do bat­tle with the world’s best, I will not be able to sum­mon an iota of pa­tri­otic fer­vour. Not even the bom­bas­tic Bey­oncé adorer will be able to rouse me to hum “Hier kom die Bokke”.

I will take in as much rugby as I can over the com­ing weeks, but I will do so as a fan of the sport rather than as a South African. And as I watch the pas­sage of the Spring­boks, I will be openly cheer­ing for which­ever op­po­nent they are fac­ing and wish­ing them hu­mil­i­a­tion.

As treach­er­ous as this may sound, the team Jean de Vil­liers will be lead­ing will not be my team. It will not be a South African team. Rather, it will be a team that rep­re­sents the stub­born re­fusal by some sec­tions of our so­ci­ety to change.

The al­most snow-white team Heyneke Meyer and his co­terie have cho­sen to take to Eng­land is a big F-you to the man who donned Fran­cois Pien­aar’s Num­ber 6 jersey and the Spring­bok cap at El­lis Park in 1995. It is a spit­ting of thick phlegm at his na­tion-build­ing ef­forts.

Sure, there will be the now-tired ri­postes about how you can­not make a Spring­bok overnight and how trans­for­ma­tion is a process and can­not be achieved by the wav­ing of a magic wand. That is true.

But the real truth is that there has been ac­tive re­sis­tance to trans­for­ma­tion. The ca­reers of promis­ing young black play­ers have been crushed by a sys­tem that wishes to re­main white and pri­mar­ily Afrikaans. Over the past 20 years, we have seen tal­ented black young­sters, many from fine rugby schools, who shone at Easter fes­ti­vals and Craven Weeks only to van­ish into thin air once the time to turn pro­fes­sional came along.

The re­silient few who make it through are a nov­elty and, even when they get there on merit, are dis­played as proof that there is com­mit­ment to trans­for­ma­tion.

Then there is the stupid ar­gu­ment that Bafana Bafana is also un­trans­formed, as its de­mo­graph­ics rep­re­sent only the other side of the pop­u­la­tion. Well, as I said, that ar­gu­ment is just plain dof and does not re­quire se­ri­ous en­gage­ment. Save to say that the ac­com­pa­ny­ing il­lus­tra­tion be­lies this. As does the fact that Bafana teams have been cap­tained by at least two white play­ers.

The lack of trans­for­ma­tion in rugby is as much a fault of the rugby es­tab­lish­ment, which is led by a cap­tured black man, as it is of a gov­ern­ment that does not see it as an im­per­a­tive. At elec­tion time, the politi­cians make a big noise about trans­for­ma­tion and then for­get about it im­me­di­ately af­ter they have been sworn in for another term.

The Bey­oncé dis­ci­ple has even gone as far as say­ing we should shelve talk of trans­for­ma­tion for now and get be­hind the Boks. When the team leaves for Eng­land, you will see him mak­ing an idiot of him­self, scream­ing and jump­ing about like a Car­toon Net­work char­ac­ter as he tries to rally the na­tion be­hind the Boks.

Per­son­ally, I will just laugh.

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