Are South Africans at it again? This a question that clouded my mind last Sunday morning.
We were driving to a match when one of the boys shouted: “That is why I hate rugby. How can they do this to one of their own”.
He was watching a video clip on his cellphone.
I asked him calmly what he was referring to. Instead of telling me, he gave me his cellphone and said look coach, this is pure discrimination. After watching the video, I was convinced that rugby in South Africa will never change.
It hurt me a bit. I wanted to post something on social media but I had to wait for the world to respond to the perceived discrimination of Makazole Mapimpi.
Remember there are still allegations against Springbok player Eben Etzebeth.
He is accused of assaulting and racially abusing a homeless man just before the Rugby World Cup, which is currently taking place in Japan. But the incident involving Mapimpi has now been a talking point.
There are images of him being sent away as he approaches a group of white players celebrating after their victory against Italy.
But was this a case of race? I would not know. But I know that racism has been discussed now and then in sport, generally.
According to Mapimpi, this was not racism but rather a ritual where only members of the so-called bomb squad, the bench players, were celebrating together.
When I was given clarity by Mapimpi, I was satisfied. Not just satisfied but happy.
I was happy because I was able to ask questions and get answers. I was happy because I had a feeling even before that told me that maybe we were making a meal out of something we knew nothing about.
We saw a nine-second clip and we jumped to conclusions. That is us, people. Some went on to make us believe that our rugby is racist.
When he was left out of the team for the next match, it was a big deal.
We were told why we he was not part of the team. We were told that he played the other matches and now he was being rested. Was Mapimpi discriminated against or are we just fuelling the already burning fire with petrol?
I have no answer. But the Springbok camp including the victims of the bomb squad dismissed that. I believe them.
I am fully behind the person, Mapimpi. I hope he is telling the truth. I will be disappointed if, years later, he comes out with a book telling us the opposite. Black rugby players are good at that. I am not going to mention the names of those who wrote books only to tell half truths.
Do we still need to discuss racism or discrimination in sport? Should we be focusing on bettering our young people? Should we not be preparing them to be better players who see no race.
In the meantime, let’s support the boys in the tournament. Stop being divisive.
But let us not be fooled, racism is alive and kicking. The players we have in the Bok team might have a background that taught them that black players should not be playing rugby. This is just my assumption.
Recently in England, Newcastle fans chanted racist songs against their own players. In Italy’s Serie A it is an everyday occurrence. These are supposedly progressive soccer leagues. Who is SA to be cleared of racism? Sport is still divided on all fronts.