Franschhoek Rugby Club Must Be Offered National Support   By Cheryl Roberts

11 Mar

franschhoek rugby club

The tragic bus accident involving Franschhoek Rugby Club shows how our society neglects working class/rural-based and community sports clubs, how sports clubs are easily discarded as being ‘unimportant nationally and to South Africa’. During this horrific accident, players lives were lost, supporters and players were injured and hospitalised. And a rugby club and community is left traumatised and stressed. Now the club and families must look around for money to help pay for funeral and hospitalisation and postcard costs. In my opinion, there should have been an immediate, combined response from the Minister of Sport, but especially from the Western Cape sports MEC and SARU to help with these unexpected costs that a struggling sports club now has to confront.

The official non-support from government sport (both national and provincial) and the national rugby federation, SARU for the tragic bus accident which involved the Franschhoek rugby club and community, shows how sports clubs, rooted in disadvantaged communities, are discarded and not recognized. Despite headline media coverage of the bus accident and support of the community and others like the President of the WP Rugby Union, national and provincial sport and SARU have not come forward to assist financially.

So the rugby players and supporters of this club are not international sportsmen like Tinus Lienie or Senzo or Joost van der Westhuizen. But they are a community-based sports club; a vital component of the sports network in SA. They are also important to the Franschoek community, and respected and appreciated. The club was on its way to play in Grabouw, against another under-resourced community’s rugby club. I can imagine the excitement about planning the trip to Grabouw, negotiating a cheaper bus ride, getting supporters on board, talking about the match. And then crash/bang; its injury and death time just like that.

It’s surprising that the South African Rugby Union, Western Cape government and National Department of Sport in RSA have not responded to finance funeral costs of players of Franschhoek rugby club. This community, rugby club and their families are already traumatised from this tragic bus accident; and they really don’t have extra money to fund the unexpected and tragic events in their lives.

The Franschhoek rugby club isn’t the Springbok team or the Stormers or the Boland and Western Province provincial teams. But they are just as significant to rugby as any other club or provincial team. The community has rallied to acquire assistance for burial costs to provide dignified funerals for the players. Those of us who respect community and club sport, who have associated our lives with community clubs, know and understand the depth of this tragedy.

Franschhoek rugby club is not a funded or sponsored club; neither is it a rich club. The club has players and supporters who are farm workers, the unemployed, artisans and struggling people. With minimal means and resources, the club provides a proud identification and association for the community. This is through rugby; the most popular sport in the towns and rural areas of the Western Cape and Boland. The players were not Springboks; they were club players and supporters who adored rugby in South Africa.

SARU is a mega rich sports federation in SA. SARU should have announced by the weekend that all funeral and injury costs would be taken care of by SARU. This didn’t require a national meeting; just a phone call between SARU’s President and CEO.

Players and supporters of Franschhoek rugby club are as important and significant to sport in SA, as are national teams and international players. Just because they are a club and play out of a town-based community, doesn’t mean they should be treated with insignificance or less respect. This is a working class sports team, with no sponsor, but with a passionate heart ad love for rugby.

Bus travel in community sport has been undertaken for decades in South Africa. The tragic bus accident which claimed the lives of rugby players and injured several supporters and players of the Franschoek rugby by club has traumatised the rugby loving community of Franschoek.

Support for community and club rugby in disadvantaged and under-resourced communities is phenomenal (its one of my writing ideas, to one day, write and publish about community support and love for club sport in SA).  Communities have over the decades, identified strongly with the sports club in their community, especially in rugby, football and cricket. In rural areas and towns, support for the club rugby team is big.

Clubs rooted at community level are the foundation of the sports pyramid and community clubs are the life support systems of national federations.

The community supports and loves their club, travels with their team on away matches, turns up at the grounds on home matches, shares the ecstasy of the victories and feels the pain and disappointment of the defeats. Clubs will recall how they have won matches from the grips of defeat, because the community supporters backed them to the final whistle.

The Franschhoek rugby club, like any community-based sports club is rooted in the community. Its here at the club where people enjoy rugby, identify as one community, grow into leaders and officials of sport and where sports talent is grown. The sports clubs in the towns and rural areas make do with limited resources and little money but they manage to fulfill their fixtures.

Bus travel was associated with anti-apartheid, non-racial sport when sports federations and community clubs didn’t have money and funds to use air travel or luxury buses for road travel. It was the bus driver and one bus in the community that was always associated with the sports club and provincial sports federation. Today, bus and car travel is still endorsed as a mode of transport for travel to and from sports events. Some tragic accidents have occurred from road transport.

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