Former black Springbok rugby player speaks out on transformation

 ·3 Sep 2015

Former Springbok, Kaya Malotana, says that South Africa is more addicted to the drama of race in rugby, than developing its people into becoming a nation of winners.

On Wednesday, a legal bid to prevent the Springbok rugby team from flying out to play in the World Cup in England, was abandoned in the High Court in Pretoria.

Applicant, Tshidiso Mokhoanatse and his Agency for New Agenda political party, had argued that Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and the South African Rugby Union had failed to ensure that the Springbok team reflected South Africa’s demographics.

Judge Ntendeya Mavundla stood the matter down for the parties to have a discussion about transformation in rugby – one that would involve the broader community.

The first game of the Rugby World Cup 2015, between England and Fiji, is 15 days away, taking place on Friday, 18 September at Twickenham Stadium in London.

In an interview for British paper, the Guardian, Malotana, who was the first black player capped by South Africa in the professional era, said there is a dire need to transform South Africa in all spheres of life and society “so that, one day, sport becomes a natural representation of our oneness”.

He said that following the success of the national rugby team in 1995, came the belief that rugby needed to transform to keep the spirit of the World Cup alive. Affirmative action and the Quota System were born.

He said that “quota player” became the new label for non-white athletes in any representative team – a period in which “we” lost our identities.

He said that all non-white rugby athletes have been subjected to the phrase: “You are not like the rest of them.”

“In the desire to be trusted for our playing ability we started living up to the expectation of not being “like the rest of them”. The “reward” was acceptance into certain inner circles… alienation from our own people and a new label: “Coconut.”

The buildup to the announcement of the 1999 World Cup squad, as this year, was overshadowed by the need for “quota players”, Malotana said.

“Being included was both a blessing and a curse – a blessing because I had an opportunity to represent my country at the highest level and a curse because all the headlines had labelled me a ‘quota’. There was no mention of my rugby ability, my character, my loyalty to team and country.”

Malotana opined that the run-up to the latest squad announcement for England, was no different. “The word has changed from quota to ‘transformation’. It seems our greatest achievement in 16 years between then and now was to read a thesaurus and find a synonym.”

“There is a dire need to transform South Africa in all spheres of life and society so that, one day, sport becomes a natural representation of our oneness. This should not be a cheap movie script with a sequel every four years at World Cup time but a daily effort by all South Africans to create a fertile environment in which our children have genuinely equal opportunities,” he said.

Malotana said that South Africans make emotional decisions rather than developing principled systems of management to guide our people into becoming a nation of winners.

“We have become so addicted to the drama of bedevilling one another that we miss fundamental opportunities to foster love, honesty, trust, accountability, peace and a prosperous coexistence that calls on us to serve each other with respect, commitment and excellence.”

Kaya Malotana won a single Test cap against Spain in October 1999 after being selected as a winger in the Springbok squad for the 1999 World Cup.

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