I'm sad this morning. It's a deep, dull sadness that has been lingering and growing for some time. I'm sad because for the first time ever I woke up this morning, sat up in bed, and seriously considered leaving South Africa to start a life in another country, like so many of my friends and family have.
No, I cannot tell a horrific story of a run in with crime - thank God. My wider family community somehow remains protected from the impact of crime, although I must admit there's a dark shadow of inevitability that hangs over my head.
I'm responding to the emerging political crisis around SA Rugby and the escalating public-sector strike action which has had a significant impact on my family (many of them are teachers, and a few nephews obviously go to school) and is rumoured to be linked to violent action in Boksburg, where a power station is burning, leaving half my buddies without electricity for a week. In the dead of winter, mind you.
Now let me make myself clear in the sense that I support the motives behind the strike. Civil servants get paid peanuts in South Africa while our beloved politicians lavish in luxury. It needs to happen. But not violently. We need to draw the line between mass action and mob action.
On to rugby. Look, so much has been said about rugby and politics and SARU and transformation that it's unlikely I can add anything meaningful to the debate. But I need to vent. I close to tears every time I think about rugby. Honestly.
Here's the situation as I understand it. South African rugby is on the up - both in terms of results and transformation. Transformation has been slow, yes, but we're talking about 13 years. If a 6 year old black child entered the schooling system (or formal rugby system) 13 years ago, went through the entire process successfully, emerged now at 19, able to compete at the highest level, there should be absolutely nothing stopping him from getting into the national side. And I don't think there is. But how can we criticise the process if we're only beginning to see the fruits of it now!?
So now we sit with a national rugby side that can perform at the highest level with 3-5 black players in the side on pure merit. I believe we can safely assume, leaving the current system alone, that by 2010 that number will have increased to 7-10 by sheer weight of numbers. Black people outnumber white people in South Africa by a significant margin, are fantastic athletes and will naturally find rugby to be a less and less white / Afrikaans dominated sport, BY NATURAL PROCESS. I would be utterly thrilled to see our national side comprised of 10 or 12 brilliant, world-class black players by 2010 - awesome! What a way to bring our country together!
Rugby has a way of doing that - bringing us together - regardless of colour or creed. We saw that in 1995 with a white-dominated winning world cup side that was adopted by a NATION - not just fellow whites. I don't hear SA's black citizens crying out against the state of rugby - black (or indian or coloured) South Africans enjoy a winning team as much as whites do - just as much as I enjoy watching our very black football side beat the ass off African competition. I'm thrilled when we hammer Chad 4-0.
The government is exerting enormous pressure on SARU, who has to respond with a strong hand, because the VERY NATURE OF RUGBY is that it is a POWERFUL UNITING FORCE in this country (not to mention commercial engine). But the power of rugby lies not in the administrators or even players, whether they're there on merit or not. The power of rugby in South Africa lies in the hands of you and I - the fans. The people who pay a fortune to attend games to watch our beloved Springboks, buy merchandise and switch on the telly to satisfy advertisers and sponsors.
If government continues to fire capable coaches, chase talented players abroad and ignore the voice of the supporters who so dearly love this sport (black and white), SA rugby will deteriorate just as Zimbabwean cricket has. Our government needs to decide if it wants to embrace a rugby reality in South Africa that may not be moving along at the pace they'd like (which may be construed as slightly unrealistic) and rather do everything they can to embrace a WINNING team that will do wonders for the nation, the commercial component and the future of rugby for aspiring black and white players. Do you think young black players will want to be a part of a rugby team that loses and has no money behind it? Strange logic?
Here's what it comes down to... South African Rugby fans (whatever colour they are) need to show government just how serious we are about our sport. We need mass action of our own. Not some frikkin' email petition. Not a Facebook group. Something big. Something that our team, Jake White and the history of the Green Jersey is worthy of. We are so good at whining and crap at doing anything constructive about it.
I need you help. How can we make this message crystal clear?
Tags: South Africa, sport, rugby, ANC, government, administration, politics
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