Sale players who refused to kneel receive death threats
Marland Yarde, the Sale Sharks wing, claims that his South African team-mates have received death threats for not taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yarde, who did take the knee, issued a statement saying that he was 100 per cent behind the Black Lives Matter movement, but unequivocally condemned any threats of violence against those who did not share his stand.
In the first round of Premiership matches since the pandemic, only four Sale players from the starting XV – Yarde, Tom Curry, Sam Hill and Manu Tuilagi – took a knee, while the club’s considerable South African contingent, including World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager, remained standing. The whole Sale squad wore “Rugby against Racism”
T-shirts, yet the issue immediately caught light when Nathi Mthethwa, the South Africa sports minister, asked the union’s president, Mark Alexander, to explain their actions.
Many players, including De Klerk, have since received abusive messages on social media, prompting Yarde to speak out.
“I stand 100 per cent for the Black Lives Matter movement and wholeheartedly believe in the importance of highlighting the continuous battle that we face in society every day and the need for a change,” Yarde wrote on Twitter.
“I have to also stand against death threats against my team-mates, which is totally unacceptable.”
Other South Africans, including Saracens’ Vincent Koch and Gloucester’s Ruan Ackermann, in the Premiership have also refrained from taking a knee in part because of a Christian belief that you should bow only before God.
Billy Vunipola, the England No8, also refused on account of the political elements of the Black Lives Matter movement clashing with his own religious beliefs.
Yet an already divisive issue is magnified several times over by South Africa’s febrile political situation. The Daily Telegraph understands that the Springboks’ 1995 World Cup-winning captain, Francois Pienaar, who took a knee at a cricket match this month, has also received death threats.
The controversy overshadows Sale’s attempt to regain Premiership momentum against Wasps tonight, with stand-in captain Ben Curry anticipating a fierce breakdown battle against Jack Willis.
Curry and Willis, both uncapped, are part of a talented cohort of young English flankers pressing for international honours.
Targeted: Sale’s South African cohort have been abused for not taking a knee