Sale play­ers who re­fused to kneel re­ceive death threats

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By Daniel Schofield and Char­lie Mor­gan

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

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