SA’s 1995 Rugby World Cup Victory Benefited White South Africans   By Cheryl Roberts

24 Jun


South Africa’s historic rugby world cup rugby victory twenty years ago on this day is being re-visited yet again, with much honour and applause being given to the Springbok world cup winning team. Memories and emotions are being recalled and played out by SA Rugby, the world cup winning squad and sports and social media platforms.

The rugby world cup victory immediately gained priority, as a sports event which ‘unified the nation and brought South Africans together’, on transitioning South Africa’s social cohesion agenda.

When an honest check is done and reality is answered, can we authentically argue that the 1995 rugby world cup, being hosted in SA and won by SA, was a significant game changer for a South African society walking from a horrendous apartheid era into a unifying society under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and the ANC?

Much of SA’s sports media would have us believe that the 1995 rugby world cup was a victory for all of SA; a victory which united South Africans. They also want us to reflect on the Springbok world victory rather than the sport’s dark moments and dominant white player representation.

It’s a fact that millions of formerly oppressed South Africans supported the Springbok team throughout the world cup. It must also be acknowledged that millions did not support the SA rugby team. 20 years later, and a significant amount of South Africans living in South Africa still don’t support or respect or acknowledge the Springbok team. Much of this non-support is related to rugby in SA perceived as a ‘white man’s sport prerogative and privilege’. So where is the unifying angle?

I was a formerly oppressed South African that didn’t support the 1995 Springbok world cup team. The wounds of apartheid were too raw and open for millions of non-supporters like me to call the Springbok team ‘my national team’. Years down the line, when I began to see some changes in SA rugby, did I also begin to embrace our national rugby teams.

South Africa’s 1995 rugby world cup squad was white to the core with the exception of one player, Chester Williams who was not white. That team represented everything of apartheid rugby and sidelined oppressed and black rugby players.

The black talent was there but the 1995 rugby squad was viewed through a white lens which saw white players as international rugby prowess and players of other colours still being emerging and developing players. The anti-apartheid rugby players who sacrificed for freedom in SA were not recognized for selection. It was white players and management, the beneficiaries of apartheid who represented the non-racial, democratic SA.

The Springbok selection of players not white was a challenging encounter in the selection forums with fierce battles dominating selection. Chester Williams’s selection was fought for and battled by a black selector, Bill Jardine who had served a lifetime in anti-apartheid, non-racial rugby.

Despite coming out of an oppressive era of apartheid lives, most black South Africans, intent on building a democratic country for all South Africans, forgave very quickly and embraced SA’s national sports teams, despite most of them being lily-white.

However, white SA’s didn’t as quickly and honestly embrace a democratic SA under a black government. The 1995 rugby world cup made white SA’s very happy. The global rugby event arrived very quickly, after apartheid.

At this stage of a democratic society, did white SA’s honestly embrace and accept a democratic society without apartheid and all its white privileges. Did white people give as much as they got from the oppressed or were black SA’s used to gain international sports acceptance?  If white people saw the rugby world cup as unifying then why are white people still racist in a democratic SA? Why is the country’s wealth still owned largely by white people? Why are the country’s rich and lush sports resources largely existent in advantaged, white communities? Why is the springbok men’s team white-dominated?

Its 20 years after democracy and sport in SA is still struggling to be transformed. Why is the Springbok men’s team still being challenged about the colour representation of its players?

Today, South Africa has a rugby world cup trophy in its sports history. Today and all other days thereafter, South Africa has a transformation road to embrace which will radically change the sports power network and ensure that sports like rugby are now owned by white people only but by our country, South Africa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: