Kolisi – why are words al­ways louder than ac­tions in SA?

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xabanisa

Even by to­day’s re­al­ity TV stan­dards, this has been a pretty schiz­o­phrenic week for Spring­bok cap­tain Siya Kolisi.

As he took to his so­cial me­dia plat­forms to can­vass votes for his nom­i­na­tion for the Lau­reus “Best Sport­ing Mo­ment of the Year” for run­ning out as the first black Spring­bok cap­tain last year, the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple he would have counted on to do his bid­ding for that award were pos­i­tively at war with him.

Most of the coun­try – Black Twit­ter to be ex­act – was in typ­i­cally vit­ri­olic mode over com­ments made by the Bok cap­tain while re­cently on a trip to Ja­pan, while the right wing el­e­ment that’s al­ways been at the core of white rugby sup­port in South Africa was heartily con­grat­u­lat­ing him for his “hon­esty” for the very same ut­ter­ances.

So much for “Unit­ing The Rain­bow Na­tion”, as the Lau­reus Foun­da­tion cap­tioned the video de­pict­ing Kolisi’s big mo­ment at El­lis Park.

Said com­ments were some­thing along the lines of (there has been so much wil­ful mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion on both sides of the di­vide that de­fines our rugby that one al­most for­gets what Kolisi ac­tu­ally said) Nel­son Man­dela wouldn’t have sup­ported the quota sys­tem; that you can’t put a num­ber on some­thing like trans­for­ma­tion; and that he wouldn’t want to be picked based on the colour of his skin.

Apart from the rookie er­ror of deign­ing to know the late Madiba’s thoughts on trans­for­ma­tion, the only other mis­take Kolisi made was be­ing inar­tic­u­late in mak­ing the state­ment to the point where it was open to al­most li­bel­lous in­ter­pre­ta­tion by band­wag­o­nists and self­ap­pointed real blacks.

As a re­sult, Black Twit­ter took turns la­belling him weak, pos­sess­ing zero po­lit­i­cal acu­men, an Un­cle Tom and a sell­out.

The main bones of con­tention have been the “quota sys­tem and num­bers” com­ments, the counter rightly be­ing that had there been no min­i­mum num­bers im­posed on rugby we wouldn’t even have the un­sat­is­fac­tory in­te­gra­tion we have.

There is no doubt that if the vast ma­jor­ity of our rugby coaches were left to their own de­vices with re­gards to play­ing black play­ers there would be lit­tle, if any, move­ment on that front.

If you want proof of that, con­sider that of all the SA coaches that have been hired by clubs in the UK, Ja­pan and France over the years, not one has ever signed a black South African player – sug­gest­ing they wouldn’t pick them if they didn’t have to.

But the same quota sys­tem peo­ple are em­brac­ing at Kolisi’s ex­pense has sys­tem­at­i­cally and con­sis­tently be­lit­tled black play­ers and made it per­mis­si­ble for white fans to glibly dis­miss great black rugby play­ers as quotas.

This is the same sys­tem that de­creed that a Gcobani Bobo could be an SA Schools cap­tain on merit but once he turned pro­fes­sional he was of­fi­cially a “quota”, while some of the white play­ers he would have cap­tained at school were pre­sum­ably the “real deal”.

So how is it that when Kolisi sug­gests a sys­tem which re­lies on box-tick­ing and threats of puni­tive mea­sures to work is flawed we all gang up on him?

The most dis­ap­point­ing thing for me has been the ac­cu­sa­tions that now that he’s sup­pos­edly on top of the pile, Kolisi kicked away the lad­der that got him there with his com­ments.

The visit to Ja­pan was to find a way he and his spon­sors Pana­sonic could do more for the un­der­priv­i­leged to go with the fact that he still pro­vides kit for his Pri­mary School from Port El­iz­abeth and his old club African Bombers, pay­ing their travel costs out of his own pocket.

Add the fact that he’s adopted his own sib­lings so they can grow up in a fam­ily unit, as op­posed to the fos­ter sys­tem, and you have a 27-year-old with a far greater sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity than the so-called grown-ups hold­ing up his be­ing mar­ried to a white woman to ques­tion his black­ness.

By the looks of it, we were hap­pier when the first black Spring­bok cap­tain sang a mean Gwijo and minded his own busi­ness, but the mo­ment he dis­played real lead­er­ship by say­ing what he re­ally thought we want him back in his box.

Kolisi may be a re­luc­tant leader who does not fit the iden­tikit of a Spring­bok cap­tain be­cause he nei­ther looks nor sounds like any of his pre­de­ces­sors, but we shouldn’t mis­take that for a lack of lead­er­ship abil­ity.

Be­sides, since when have words been louder than ac­tions?

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