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When Days Are Dark

by Dan Gillespie / 14.07.2010

The Tri-Nations kicked off to a disappointing start this weekend. After conquering all and sundry during last year’s edition (apart from that game at Brisbane that we won’t mention), everyone expected us to roll over the All Blacks this weekend. FAIL.

Not only did we not beat them, we were pretty much destroyed by them. By the end of the game most of the senior players looked as though they had just had an appointment with their proctologist- and he’d run out of KY. The New Zealanders put four tries past us to win 32-12. We didn’t even cross the whitewash once.

At least now we’ve lost. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with winning at Eden Park (where we haven’t won since 1937) and then losing when the Kiwis tour here. Anything but that.

What made the 32-12 loss even more unbearable, though, was not the result. It wasn’t even the fact that Bakkies Botha acted like a doos, and managed to get himself a yellow card and a 9 week ban, due to a history of idiotic transgressions.

No, it was what I saw on Facebook, after I switched off the TV, that really pissed me off.

I live in Cape Town, so it’s fair to say that I have some coloured friends. The majority of them are completely rational. They harbour no ill will towards anyone, and get on with their lives just like everybody else.

However, as soon as the Tri-Nation starts, a small proportion of my bruin bros turn into rabid revolutionaries set on continuing the fight against the evils of apartheid. Ja, I am talking about that slice of predominantly coloured people who still support the All Blacks instead of the Springboks. And a fair few of these, as the Dude once described as: “human paraquats”, were voicing their joy at the Boks’ defeat. This is when I lose all respect for my mates.

I get why your dad may have supported the All Blacks during the1980s. I fully understand not wanting to get behind the team who were the poster boys for the blond, blue-eyed Afrikaner uber-mesnch of the apartheid state. But, 16 years after the sport was de-segregated, and following the selection of numerous (not one or two) black and coloured players for the Springboks, surely you can get over yourselves and support the national rugby team?

Why do they do it? I don’t see these same guys getting behind the Australian cricket team, yet the Proteas have a similarly chequered racial history. It seems to me that my friends are not actually that concerned about the racially dodgy background of Springbok rugby. Rather, they support the All Blacks because it is easier to do so.

While the Boks have been up and down over the past decade, the side from New Zealand have always been at, or near, the top of the IRB rankings. Maybe the only reason they support the Kiwis is that, nine times out of ten, they’ll be on the winning side. It’s the same reason that half of the Cape Flats support either Arsenal or Manchester United instead of getting behind Santos, Ajax or Golden Arrows. And lord knows, with all these new, gigantic temples to FIFA standing empty, we could use some steady support for our local teams, but I digress.

I wish I could say that their support of the All Blacks is an attempt to throw their weight purely behind excellence and question the rather dubious link between sport and nationalism. But I don’t think the majority South African All Black supporters have interrogated the subject that deeply. I think it’s just easier to get behind a team that never (or more accurately these days, rarely) loses. I think it has become a comfortable and nostalgic default position for a lot of coloured rugby fans who may still feel that the game is ruled by a white, Afrikaans elite. But surely with the plethora of coloured and African players wearing the Green and Gold, on merit alone, and Pieter De Villiers at the helm, those “old” ideas are due a re-think.

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