Why South Africa took 127 years to name its first black rugby test captain

Nduta Waweru May 29, 2018 at 04:26am

May 29, 2018 at 04:26 am | News

Nduta Waweru

Nduta Waweru | Contributor

May 29, 2018 at 04:26 am | News

Photo: Times Live

Siya Kolisi has been named the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, making him the first black captain to lead the squad in a test in the game’s 127 years.

This is a momentous moment in South Africa, which is 90% black.

Under the apartheid regime, only white people were enlisted to play for the Springboks.  However, the racism in the game happened way before apartheid.

The South African Coloured Football Rugby Board in 1911 wanted to participate in the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) tour but their proposal was rejected after the all-white Rugby Union distanced themselves from the Coloured team.

The isolation of South African sports team by the international community as a way of protesting apartheid called for the transformation of the sports sector.

Over the years, rugby in South Africa has been under criticism for lack of black players in the team, leading to the imposition of the racial quota system in 2016. There had been complaints that Black rugby players were constantly sidelined, something the rugby union denied.

There have been other efforts to ensure racial representation in the game, with the rugby union and government agreeing that the 50% of 2019 Rugby World Cup squad should be black.

However, a recent incident, where a decorated former rugby player, Ashwin Willemse, walked off a live broadcast, indicated that the country still had a long way to go.

The appointment of Kolisi could be a step in the right direction.

Kolisi, who grew up in Zwide in Port Elizabeth, is the captain for the Western Stormers side. He ventured into international ruby years after earning a scholarship to a local school after he impressed scouts at a youth tournament.

The 26-year-old has played 28 international Tests and was named the Man of the Match in a game against Scotland.

According to head coach Rassie Eramus, Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit who will captain the Springboks in Saturday’s game against Wales, are honest and hardworking.

“It is a huge honour to captain the Springboks and Siya and Pieter-Steph are two honest, hard-working men who enjoy the respect of their fellow players,” he said.

In 2006, Chiliboy Ralepelle became the first black player to skipper the team at World XV in England in 2006, but the match did not achieve Test status.

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