Tank Lanning

The Front Row Grunts!

2008-10-14 07:46
The Grunt - Tank Lanning

Tank Lanning

Two great Absa Currie Cup semi finals were staged in front of around 70 000 odd rugby fans on the weekend, and the front pages of papers are carrying sport instead of crime on their front pages. Yes please! To talk about the fantastic rugby we saw on the weekend and debate the final in two weeks time? Of course not …

A few so called sporting experts chose to skip the semi finals, and rather gather at a national sports indaba in Durban in order to find ways to derail the Springbok train. Not to worry about the single lucky medal that we won in Beijing, not to worry about Bafana slipping to 85th in the world and missing out on the Nations Cup, not to worry about the Proteas being whitewashed by the Poms recently. No, let’s find a way to attack the single national team to win a World Cup, rather!

Their findings - the Springbok, that so called divisive rugby emblem, must go before next month's tour to England, Scotland and Wales. And from February, all national and provincial rugby teams will have to field at least eight black players.

Throw in the fact that Luke Watson is alleged to have said the following: “I wanted to vomit on the Springbok jersey” and “Afrikaners like Francois Pienaar organise white elitist events like the Varsity Cup” at an Ubumbo function at UCT last weekend (I use the word “alleged” given that Watson now seems intent on using lawyers to attack the people who reported what he said, rather than the actual words said), and you have a seriously spicy weekend.

One that really, really gets my goat! A white person who has anything negative to say about the government or the way they try and implement transformation is labeled a racist, of course. It’s the only card they have to play. So below, comments from a common racist who could not possibly want what is best for South Africa …

The Bok emblem. I want it to stay. Not only does it have great commercial value (and lets face it, the government does not finance sport – just ask the Olympic team, so we need sponsors money), but I also see it as an emblem that paid it’s dues during isolation and now represents a unifying success story – the national rugby side who have won two world cups. But it seems the issue will never go away until it goes away. The ANC in Polokwane adopted a resolution echoing the need for a single emblem for national teams – that being the Protea. So put a flower on the damn jersey. The New Zealand side carry a silver fern on their jersey, yet are known throughout the world as the “All Blacks”. The “Springboks” will always be the “Springboks” no matter what you put on the jersey. Perhaps let the politicians have their childish little win on the actual emblem?

Eight black players in all national and provincial rugby teams. I do not care what anyone says, but this is just plain racist. It might be disguised as a way to right the wrongs of the past, but it is plain and raw racism. Anyone ever spoken to a player who was put into a side for only race reasons? I have. Did they have a good time? They hated it. Was it good for team morale? There was no team morale. I have said it so many times. Development is about what you do at junior and high school level, not at representative level. The best side must be picked. Success must be the determining factor, not demographics. If today’s side is made up of primarily big white Afrikaans people, so be it. Like school rugby, it will progress in natural cycles. No one school dominates schoolboy rugby forever (well, apart from Grey in Bloemfontein!). In two years time, the Bok team could be made up of medium sized coloured Afrikaans people from Paarl, and then later giant black Zulu speaking people from Kwazulu-Natal. Who cares where they come from and what the hell they look like? Are they the best side we can put on the field?

Luke Watson. Well, if the literally thousands of comments on Sport24 yesterday calling him “Puke Watson”, are anything to go by, he must be the most hated man in South Africa at the moment. And deservedly so, in my book. Sure he does not select himself, but if once selected, you are not willing to be part of that team on every level, and that means sticking to an agreed upon team code, then rather do not accept the selection. He is a selfish player on the field (to my mind the fundamental reason WP did not get a bonus point against Boland a few weeks ago), and seemingly a selfish person off it. All of Cobus Grobbelaar, Wikus van Heerden, Heinrich Brussouw and Jacques Botes (who were the fetchers for the respective sides in the semi finals) deserved selection ahead of him this year, so let’s just move on and select the best side available, which at the moment, surely cannot include Luke Watson.

Are we turning into the next New Zealand, who suffer a serious “Tall Poppy syndrome” where people who succeed are knocked rather than encouraged? Yes the tall trees catch the most wind, but does it always have to be a negative wind? With serious issues like education, crime rate, and the inflation rate seemingly in a free fall, sport is the last political football that the likes of Buthana Khompela and Makhenkesi Stofile get to kick around. And given that the likes of those two have managed to send almost every other sport into decline, it seems that they will only be successful when they see the same thing happen to rugby.

Sport could be a lifeline for this country, but only if our teams are successful. Anyone seen the crowds at a Bafana game recently? Demographically perfect in the eyes of the politicians, but achievement challenged in the eyes of the fans. Wake up – it is success that is the unifier, not politically correct logos and demographically correct teams who come second.  
- Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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