Rugby unity? What unity?


It speaks volumes about our priorities that when SA Rugby announced its plans to celebrate 25 years of rugby “unity” last week the public’s preoccupation was the red Springbok jersey they will use to commemorate it in the Rugby Championship game against Argentina in Salta.

Turns out a lot of people have a very real problem with a red Bok jersey.

Former Bok lock Bakkies Botha took to twitter to voice his disapproval while his old coach Jake White rolled up his sleeves and, as the kids say, properly got in his feelings in a column about how wrong it all was.

“Doc [Danie] Craven must be turning in his grave,” he revved up.

“Next we’ll be making exceptions so a guy can play for South Africa with a ponytail … it’s the start of a slippery slope,” White said.

How is it that we’re obsessing about a jersey and not asking what unity exactly we’re talking about?

In the two weeks since SA Rugby’s announcement, so many examples have proved that little has changed with our rugby since 1992.

The first was the naming of Eben Etzebeth as the stand-in captain over Siya Kolisi while Warren Whiteley remains injured.

Going with the abrasive lock – and this is for the legions of Etzebeth fans who will dedicate column inches to refuting this – isn’t wrong per se.

It’s just that using the numbers (Etzebeth’s 50-plus caps) and a pre-existing vice-captaincy (due to said numbers) to make the call smacks of more of the same by the powers that be.

If they wanted to make a bold statement about rugby’s so-called unity they could have gone with Kolisi, who has come from nowhere and got everyone to relate to him and has united people in the sport through his honesty, passion and approachability.

However, making such a call would mean rocking the boat about what a Bok captain looks like. And we wouldn’t want Doc Craven to turn in his grave, would we?

Another example is the fanfare that accompanied Victor Matfield’s drawing to the Lions fold as forwards coach. While not a like for like swap, Matfield’s chance on Swys de Bruin’s staff came at Bafana Nhleko’s cost.

Nhleko is a 34-year-old coach who has been with the Lions since 2011 and led their SuperSport Rugby Challenge team to the semifinals of that competition.

But just as he expects to get a tap on the shoulder for higher honours, he gets jettisoned to go coaching Defence Under-20s again.

Simply put, the Lions have built Nhleko up as a coach for six years, so that they can doubt his ability just as he proves his readiness for more responsibility.

I marvel at the fact that we in the media can write a story in which we mention Elton Jantjies and Handrè Pollard in the same breath, when
one has been the country’s number one flyhalf (at Super Rugby level, anyway) for the past two years and the other has barely played in the same period.

But we’re taking our cue from the selectors, who picked Pollard on the basis that, despite numerous injuries, he could walk in a straight line, as opposed to perform.

And then we haven’t even really spoken about the coaches (Johan Ackermann, De Bruin and Robert du Preez) who oversee the successes of their sons by giving them all the breaks, by either coaching them or finding them jobs at their unions.

Elsewhere it’s called nepotism, but in rugby it’s the natural order of things.

But no, a red jersey is the problem.

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"


  1. Scathing critique Bunny. Scathing.
    If the ” Cherries ” win next weekend it should be stricken from the historical record.
    I bet these red jerseys make BC wanna puke. I can’t blame him!!!

  2. Who cares about the colour of the jersey. I think Kolisi should captain the side in Whiteley’s absence.

    As for pollard, he is every bit as good as jantjies, and even better in many respects. Jantjies can blow hot and cold, and I for one don’t think he can dictate play outside of SA. I’d rather we go for a young playmaker like Bosch who ticks all the political boxes, but leaving all that crap aside, is actually very talented.

  3. Yep exactly what unity?

    How about they chose the side to play in Salta ‘without’ the obvious quota’s?

    In 25 years of rugby, they should have been done away with except the baying to politicians has only worsened and quota’s have increased exponentially and continue to do so and at the pinnacle level!

    Where is the ‘unity’ in a team where selection is made based on skin colour first and form second and what’s worse it further segments selection based on who is blacker than who?

    Medieval stuff… harks back to the ‘pencil tests’ of old and is not only blatantly discriminatory it’s downright unconstitutional!

  4. As for the colour… can someone tell me why red when they could have fashioned one using the colours of the brilliant flag?

    Smacks of the old Communist colours of comrades of old and new.

  5. I would have not had a problem with Kolisi as captain… but then again he would not have been guaranteed to make ‘my’ starting side over Kriel.

    I was not too sure about why Etzabeth got the gong… but what other player is rarely injured… at 25 and over 50 tests is both a youngster and one of the more seasoned veterans… commands respect… and pretty is much the first player to be pencilled into the side come selection time every single test.

    His decisions to back their winning set pieces over going for the PK proved pretty fortuitous last week too.

  6. @JT:

    I’ve never bought the old ‘enforcer’ bollocks. No need to be singular when the opposition is weary about being smashed/cleaned-out/rucked by a multitude of players everywhere on the paddock…

  7. @cab:

    Who knows what Pollard plays like anymore… when last did he even play CC rugby?

    Jantjies has a few deficiencies… but add another respectable boot into that backline from both an exit-kicking and goal-kicking perspective and some of that pressure is off. No better than Combrink to fill that space in Rhule’s place. Jantjies is currently the best 10 in RSA and he ‘ticks the political box’. You’re talking about Bosch like you did with your other love child Goosen lol… and we’ve seen how that ended up.

    Personally I think Lionel Cronje after a barn-storming season has the test qualities needed to fill the gap whilst Pollard shows he’s even back up to speed and Bosch continues his up-ward trend.

  8. @bryce_in_oz:

    Jantjies does not fill me with confidence… however he has impressed and surprised me time and again at Super rugby level the last 2 seasons.

    Pollard I think is the better player but when in form and he needs game time so let him play CC or loan him to the Kings/Cheetahs

  9. I’m with JT, Jantjies can be good and he has some v good offloads, but he can waste a shitload and is v slow on the ball at times. Needs to vary his play more and to take on the oppo. He doesn’t have a lot of pace. Bosch will keep the oppo thinking – I just think we need something exciting at 10. Can you imagine a Bok team with that ?