‘No,’ They cried, ‘I will not watch South Africa, win or lose!’


As some may know, and as I have maybe stated previously, Sport; any sort, make and version of any team or individual exertion; bores me rigid. If someone wants to watch, participate, cheer on summat, a team, a single person: well, good luck to them. Just kindly leave me out! I do accept, that, for many, readers, sporting achievement rules almost everything; and whilst I accept this as a human weakness, or genetic miscalculation, I still do not understand it.

The wonderful and inspiring (to some) Rugby World Cup, as the statistics, the commentaries and the predictions roll across our screens and out of the radio speakers suggest; cannot be ignored. The hopefuls, the wanna-be’s, the Rugby giants and the giant-killers: they are all here; their horizons limited to a strangely-shaped ball, a pitch delineated by two sets of skywards-pointing poles, and a set of rules which verge on the impenetrable. But I wish to explore the opinions, the almost predictable reactions, of two people, diametrically-opposed to each other in politics, theology and outlook on life itself. Shakespeare himself could not have imagined the tortured logic of two people, taking the same decision, on whether to watch their National team or not: for very different reasons.

South Africa, with a population split of some 15% white to 75% black, has a very, very different sporting background. The history of the Black population of South Africa, in terms of sporting traditions, acclaim, prowess and following has always favoured Association Football. The ferocious followers of such teams as Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax are somewhere near 100% black; as are the players. The Rugby Union game in South Africa has always been a preserve of the White man, both in terms of players, and of fans and following. The tradition of the Afrikaaner has always been wrapped around the Rugby game, with of course the small niggle that it was invented by the hated English, their conquerors in the Boer War. To grasp the idea of how much was vested in Rugby within the White and Afrikaans population of South Africa, I heard about the central hall of a large Johannesburg hotel, quite busy with a fair amount of people around; when the whisper ran round that a Hero had arrived; then a rugby-playing six-foot seven-inch man mountain walked through the doors, and he couldn’t get to the reception desk to check his room for over a half-hour, coping as he did with all the fans and hero-worship.

So you can possibly understand the frenzy when a black man states he will not be watching the South Africa v. Japan match, because there aren’t enough Black players in the squad, as the Black South African population massively outnumbers the Whites: and then the reverse, where a White South African states categorically that he shall not watch the match; that the South African squad has too many ‘quota’ black players; that they just aren’t good enough, and the real reason the Springboks played so badly was to show how terrible the ‘quota’ black players performed!

As I stated earlier, sport bores me rigid!

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