South Africa, one of the favourites for the World Cup, will be prevented from taking part in the tournament if a court action this week succeeds. The Agency for New Agenda (ANA) party is taking the South African Rugby Union to court in Pretoria seeking an order that would force players and officials to surrender their passports, preventing them from flying to London on the grounds that the government’s policy on transformation has not been met with the Springboks’ squad, which was announced last Friday, being mainly white.
Edward Mahlomola Mokhoanatse, the ANA president, said: “The action is a public duty to defend our constitution and to consign to the rubbish bin of history all vestiges and remnants of racial bigotry, racial exclusion and discrimination. Mokhoanatse added he would be asking the North Gauteng high court to establish a judicial commission of inquiry into “the lack of transformation in South Africa rugby”.
“Although much has been done to transform the country, the national team’s rugby selection criteria are racially exclusionary and biased in favour of whites. Fikile Mbalula [the sports minister] has failed to transform rugby and any argument SARU presents to justify is failure to do so should be treated with disdain. It has betrayed the trust of millions of South Africans, continues to resist change and should attract the severest sanctions possible.”
The action, which calls for the authorities responsible for the ports of exit to bar the Springboks from leaving the country, will be heard by Judge Ntendeya Mavundla. A spokesperson for the department of sport and recreation, Esethu Hasane, said the summons would be defended, adding: “It is imperative for all South Africans to support the national team.”
The party was also written to World Rugby, calling on the governing body to “take a stance and condemn, unreservedly, the continued exclusion and marginalisation of black South Africans from the national team”. The court case adds to the pressure on the South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer after the three defeats in this year’s Rugby Championship took the Springboks out of the top three in the world rankings.
Last week, Meyer said he had met transformation requirements by naming nine players of colour in his World Cup squad, achieving the minimum quota of 30%. One of them, the wing Bryan Habana, who will be playing in his third World Cup, said he fully supported Meyer. “This is unfortunately something that is always going to be a part of South African rugby,” said Habana. “I’m fully behind Heyneke’s standing in the situation and wanting to make this World Cup a successful one for South Africa.
“I hope as players we can play our part in making his job a little bit easier. Having won the World Cup in 2007, I know that when we are successful we unite the nation.”
- The Guardian