Dear Ollie le Roux
I wish to introduce myself. My name is Sedick Crombie and I am the Media and Publicity Secretary for the SARU SACOS Legends. Just in case you asked who? Let me explain. We are an organisation of former players, administrators and spectators from the non-racial rugby fraternity which hail from the days of South Africa’s turbulent apartheid past and from which Allister Coetzee also comes.
I do not profess to speak on behalf of Allister as I did not consult him nor has his permission but would like to respond to some of your claims in the article which was published in the Irish Independent and where you made some dubious statements. You claimed that Allister never played for the Springboks and I do agree with you wholeheartedly because he played under our umbrella organisation, the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU) which was vehemently opposed to the racist sports which was practised at the time.
This, Ollie, was also the time, I know you will remember when blacks (Africans, Coloureds and Indians) were barred from representing South Africa and could not qualify to be Springboks. As part of the racist policies of the then apartheid government, through its Department of Sport and Recreation, Coloureds and Blacks who opted to participate in racist sports were classified as Proteas (Coloured) and Leopards (Blacks).
Allister is therefore not a Springbok because he was one of the thousands of principled South African sportsmen and women who stood steadfast in their beliefs and sacrificed their rugby careers in order to ensure South African sports and the Springboks can be allowed back into the international sporting arena.
Their sacrifices and suffering under extreme pressure were the backbone and catalysts which allowed us to be accepted back into the family of world nations without any baggage or being stigmatised as outcasts or pariahs. In stating that Allister is not a Springbok is thus a moot point and something we South Africans over the age of 40 years and ones with a modicum of self-restraint and context of our not too distant past would have been very cautious to blabber about. It is thus a bit perplexing that you would be so glib to go and reminisce over an exclusionary past symbol and history, flouting it in the public domain, let alone the international arena.
The debate of whether anybody that did not play in the international arena is equipped to coach a national team has reared its head on many occasions here and abroad and I see you make mention of it again in your evaluation on Allister. I may not be the expert on this but as a simpleton, would want to know the logic of this narrative you so boldly exclaimed in the article. I find this hard to fathom, as former Springboks John Williams, Harry Viljoen, Rudolph Strauelli, Carel du Plessis etc were all Springboks and though not wishing to be vindictive and besmirch their good names, similarly did not fare so well as Springbok coaches either.
On the contrary the Springboks possibly had some of the lowest win percentages under some of their tutelage. It is however astonishing to note that another former Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers - another former SARU SACOS player - had an outstanding record. In scrutinising the latter’s performance as coach and also taking into account the quality of the opposition he played against you find him to be the last Springbok coach to win against the All Blacks, home and away. And oh yes Peter similarly did not play for the Springboks either, the primary factor you raise against Allister’s fitness to coach the national rugby team.
I therefore think the conundrum we find ourselves in and which you raise leads us to the conclusion that we should maybe forsake our pre 1992 Springbok history. This narrative was based on exclusion, discrimination, prejudice and racism where the likes of Allister and Peter de Villiers as well as so many other gifted individuals in our stable were denied the opportunities to showcase their God given talents on the international stage.
The retainment of the Springbok symbol was a conciliatory mechanism, though against great consternation in the non-racial camp that was not wholly in favour of continuing to use it as the national South African rugby emblem.
This notion of being a Springbok to be national coach brings forth subdued hurt and is a kick in the face of the goodwill from those who bore the brunt of prejudice and takes us back to the pre-1992 era. It was only through the timely intervention of our late former president, Nelson Mandela, at the time that intervened and requested our support by government for the Springbok to be retained. I therefore believe that when you use the Springbok representation and roll call as a yardstick for being elected as coach then it smacks of gross insensitivity.
I do not think we all would wish to be taken back to our turbulent past and in the same vein disqualify the incumbent Springbok coach and the majority rugby establishment which include many gifted coaches who did not play for the Springboks for the reasons listed. I therefore think you would agree with me that if this symbol, with its contentious past, is now used as criteria for coaching the national team then it becomes a divisive symbol and might as well be ditched in its entirety as a matter of conscience.
I would similarly have wanted to debate this domestic issue with you in our local media, as we South Africans often want to do, but since you have now given it an international flavour I was poised to do same.