So where are these millions of black fans, Gary Boshoff?


So after reading what I regarded as typical nonsense from Gary Boshoff I decided to check out all the millions of adoring black fans of rugby who are so sorely disappointed in the “whiteness” of local rugby.

Gary Boshoff has just one line of writing it appears… he whinges about race in rugby… I don’t think I can recall a piece by him where he does not, even by allusion refer to race.. and then whine about it..

So I have been to a few rugby games in my time. I make a point to attend one provincial match each year… and I try to get to an international.. suually I get to more. This year the Valke are playing out of Kempton Park again so I can go watch them regularly. Barnard Stadium is on the taxi route between Tembisa and Kempton Park. Ellis Park is in Doornfontein, walking distance from Hillbrow.. which is a black neighbourhood, and FNB is close enough to Soweto to make it even more accessible.

So where are the black fans? I’ve been to games at all three venues this year… and the paltry numbers of black fans attending was astounding… especially the Soweto game. …There were more touring Maori fans at Lions S14 games than black local fans. Now I hear people squealing about prices… but the fact is the black middle class is bigger than the white one these days. I’ve seen a couple of black rugby fans at games but their numbers are miniscule… and in many cases black rugby fans do not support the Bokke but the teams against whom the Bokke are playing… and Mr. Boshoff should know more than me seeing as most of those local All Black fans are coloureds. There… I said it.

Okay so having been to matches in almost every venue in Gauteng and Natal and not seen these magical millions of rugby adoring black fans I decided to listen to black radio stations. So I’ve spent the last three weeks listening to YFM and Metro… the two hip happening black stations aimed at the upwardly mobile young black professional. Metro had ZERO rugby coverage in three weeks. YFM covered the last 3N game in three bulletins… and that was it… hmmm… one would think that these radio stations would understand their listenership LSM requirements… like that there are millions of black rugby fans to cater for… but though if I were a young black professional I would now understand the difference between local and imported Hip-Hop music and be able to talk about Kanyi Mdau’s latest scandal with the best… I would not even know there is a game called rugby played in this country…

Okay so I ask someone in the know… tell me about black newspapers. I get Sunday Tribune, Sowetan, Isolezwe and City Press… the four biggest circulating newspapers aimed at the black market. Okay so here there should be some rugby coverage right? Right… except that it is hidden on page 4 or in the “Other sports” news sections.

E.g. this past Sunday’s Sunday Tribune‘s lead sports stories were…. about the Pretoria Derby (Downs vs Supersport idiots… not the one you think), Celtic vs Chiefs, Amazulu vs FS Stars, Liverpool lose to Man U, Champions League Cricket, Pakistan v England cricket, Tommy Robredo reaching some tennis tournament’s semi finals, the attempts of India to save the Commonwealth games,.. no… that was it… ZERO coverage of the CC games of the weekend… Okay so then I look at City Press… its sport pages today are about … four soccer players die in accident, Tiger Woods has a new book out, SA Commonwealth Games team announced, Chiefs to attack Soweto derby match, France beats Argentina in Davis Cup, Commonwealth Games may not happen… and…ABSA says no quotas in CC…holy moly a rugby story! Not the fact tht the national skipper is out of action for a crucial end of season European tour or that the club finals will be between Maties and College Rovers, or that the coach is facing a crucial performance review in less than a week. Nope it’s three day old rubbish gathered from the Reuters lines to fill up space…

Okay so what about Sowetan… the newspaper of new home of national rugby…Kaizer Motaung has bought 40% shareholding in Chiefs back from Primedia, Pirates v Chiefs in Soweto this Sunday, Birds (Maroka Swallows) vow to reach Final (BP Top 8), Refs boycott Capricorn League games, Santos v Sundowns preview, Komphela (the successful brother Bhutana hates) takes over as Free State Stars coach, Gordon Igesund takes charge at Black Aces..and at the bottom stuck between “Sampie is Moto X hero” and “Golf goes green” is “Club rugby giants collide”… about Maties vs Hammies…. not a word about the key clash for the local “Jozi” team against the CC league leaders this weekend…

Only Isolezwe leads with the John Smit operation story… and even that is a link to an IOL sports news feed…

So Mr. Boshoff… as someone in the media I assume you know that newspapers and magazines and radio stations spend obsessively to  establish the trends amongst their LSM groups they are aimed at so as to stay relevant and be able to offer advertisers access to those LSM groups… I assume you are aware that the initial market research was invented so the media could know how to market themselves to the correct advertisers (so much for media freedom when money talks… but that’s another story) and advertisers in fact demand to know which market they are targetting when they advertise.. e.g. it is useless to market retirement plans to 18-25 age group… or advertise a hip Chevy Spark on Classic Business…

And so, aside from never having seen these magical millions of adoring black Bokke fans, I have also failed to see the black media cover rugby in anything like the obsessive coverage they give to football… in fact… when rugby is stuck in “other news” and even there, is three days old… one has to ask… are there actually that many black rugby fans whio give a damn? And from available evidence… it does not seem like many…

Maybe YOU stop whining and get out there and market the game to your constituents… and the media that serves them…

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  1. I must admit I have seen some more than usual black people wear Bok jerseys but when I have asked them… they have just said they bought the jersey because the Bokke won the World Cup and Tri-Nations…


    Having more black fans is niot the result of having more black professional and national players but the result of winning…

    The Bulle from what I have seen have by far the most black rugby fans… and they are the most Afrikaans Boere of unions…. BUT


    People support WINNERS no matter what the color of their skin…

    AND THAT is the UGLY truth Bhuttanus Kompompmyela and Gary Boggeroff must learn first…

  2. Hey Davids,

    could you not send this link or piece to the news 24 letters page?

    I know Gary Boshoff reads it and will see it as a truer word has seldom been spoken(written).

  3. The one place your research has taken you is to the rural rugby fields and television sets. Granted that it probably won’t be millions of fans, but just looking at the papers doesn’t really tell an accurate picture.

    Also, define fan? Fan of the big teams or just a fan of your local rugby? I grew up in the EC farming community, there were regular matches in the weekends by teams from the surrounding farms, often watched by quite a couple of fans.

    I think both articles are probably extreme in their own way.

  4. Ollie

    Rugby is on M-Net…ONLY

    Bok matches are delayed live on SABC 2… the Afrikaans language channel…

    The only real access people will have to rugby will be via newspapers and radio… NOT television… the television will be skewed based on the wealth of the viewers who need to be able to afford subscription television… so it would not be an indicator whatsoever.

    Better suggestion go to a black man’s home on a Saturday and listen to what sport he is listening to on the radio. Radio 2000 and RSG carry rugby commentary…


    If you go down to your local petrol garage you will NOT hear rugby commentary at all…

    I think your personal views are empiric and speculative without substance.

  5. Reply to Morné @ 10:32 am:

    By big teams I mean just about any club from the club championship up.

    Look in the WP, the bad news coming from the club games because of the spectators. Yes, I now that those involved with the bad behaviour can be termed fans in the broadest and loosest sense of the word, but never the less, they attend matches and follow the game.

    All I am saying is don’t discount the little guys, enough of them adds up to lots. But again, probably not millions but also not just paltry handful.

  6. Also

    I rugby matches on SABC 2 are at the same time as live soccer on SABC 1… and IF someone has access to a television I challenge you to find the group of black people watching the rugby as opposed to soccer…

  7. Reply to DavidS @ 10:36 am:

    You are 100% correct that I am being speculative, but my point is that rugby fans need not necessary be just those supporting teams that make it to the airwaves.

    There is ( maybe was, as I have not been to the farms in a while) a vibrant community of players and supporters completely off the radar whose numbers cannot be verified easily and therefore not discounted.

  8. I understand what you are saying

    However the newspaper and media coverage would be aimed at addressing the needs of the LSMs they are targeting for advertisers and the fact these do not reflect in the coverage of the newspapers and radio stations where one would expect to find many fans is proof that the game does not, as alleged, have a huge following outside of certain small concentrated communities.

    By this I mean Cape coloreds, Eastern Cape rural Xhosas (who hae no soccer team to follow anymore in any case after Umtata folded)… and some youngsters whose folks send them to formerly white private schools which have a culture of rugby… in fact our black rugby talent and by that I mean African is STILL primarily coming from those schools…

  9. Reply to DavidS @ 10:45 am:

    Agreed, main stream papers will never carry the rugby articles that interest the people I mention. Hell, even the smaller papers don’t do it because it is most likely that the fans don’t read the papers.

    Getting these “rural” fans to become mainstream fans would be a major project, which SARU , the Unions and media couldn’t be bothered to target.

  10. In a nutshell, I wouldn’t discount that the majority of supporters and players could be POC, in statistical numbers, but the actual level of involvement of the players and supporters is not at a level that is interesting to look into financially.

    As you say, the majority of POC players are from former white schools with a rich rugby heritage.

    That said, SARU could be doing a hell of a lot more to develop the game at the lower levels and the unions honestly probably could be doing more as well. Still waiting to hear what is happening with the high performance centre in the Easter Cape though.

  11. Reply to Ollie @ 10:28 am:

    but just looking at the papers doesn’t really tell an accurate picture.
    Err … Actually it does. They all do readership studies and cut their cloth accordingly, i.e. cater for readers’ interests.

    Dawie’s argument has been mine too for a long time now.

    And the funny thing is that there are more words written about soccer than there are specatators turning out.

    Argus a few weeks ago had a table of attendance figures, ranging from 5,000 to 500.

    Cape Town Stadium went big last weekend with two local teams playing. Bargained on 20,000 and only got 7,000 = huge loss.

    I think the only teams pulling big crowds are Chiefs and Pirates – and only when they are playing one another.

  12. Reply to Ollie @ 1:39 pm:

    Sorry, Baas.
    I forgot a lot of people don’t or can’t read or afford papers.
    Zwelinzima Vavi admitted as much in saying that’s the only reason the ANC is still in government.

  13. Olieism


    1. a nonsensical or irrelevant argument built on speculative possibilities in order to bicker a point without base or evidence.
    2. a statement that cannot be proven or dis proven because of it’s nature, see 1 above.
    3. no evidence of existence is taken as no evidence of non-existence and there evidence of existence.

    Complete lack of evidence of the existence of black rugby fans will be taken by an olieism as evidence that they may exist.


    Alternate forms: Bizarro Logic

    See also: waving penguin emoticon.

  14. The problem I have with Gary Boshoff, and the people at the people at SARU (Hoskens et al.)for that matter, is that they concentrate on the urban areas when talking about rugby development. They do not go out to the rural areas of the Eastern Cape where rugby is a passion amongst the black population at school level. This is the segment of the population that they should be targeting. Here the masses play rugby not soccer.

    I recently spent 4 years living in Maclear,(in the far north eastern region of the Eastern Cape), and to watch a local school derby here is an experience not to be forgotten. I am talking of former model C schools where 90% of the pupils are now black. They do not have the facilities of the Greys, Paarl Schools or Queens College for that matter, but certainly make up for it with passion. This goes for the supporters as well.

    Teams fron Barcklay East, Dordrecht, Elliot, Maclear, Matatielle compete against each other season after season without Craven Week selectors making even token appearences. (Shame on Border and Eastern Province for that matter.)

    The first XV’s of these schools consist almost entirely of black players. What happens to these players? What is SARU doing to keep them in the game after they leave school? The short answer is nothing.

    If these kids do not have the finances to go to varsity they are lost to the game once they leave school. Rugby at senior level is non existant in a lot of these small platteland towns.

    It is not as though SARU do not know what is happening here. Hell, their own legal officer, Christo Ferreira, had a legal practice in Maclear for a number of years. They just do not seem to care. Why does Gary Bosshoff not put pen to paper about SARU’s total lack of interest?

    I am convinced that the route to unlocking the potential of rugy in the Easter Cape is through the rural areas where soccer is not the number one winter sport. Rugby is. Is it to much to hope for that SARU would get off their backsides and do someting about it.

  15. Reply to Boet @ 9:57 pm:

    Fook, there could even be a reality show, “SA’s got players”

    Although the media will probably screw that up by trying to script everything.

    You are right though, there is a big rural following of rugby that people don’t even realise exists.