South Africa and the All Blacks

An interesting piece by Lindiz van Zilla in the Weekend Argus:

I am South African and I support the Springboks. And I will shout for the Springboks when they line up against the at Ellis Park today. But this wasn’t always the case. …

My heroes, our heroes, were Jeff Wilson, Andrew Mehrtens, Josh Kronfeld and Sean Fitzpatrick. Those with Maori or other South Sea island heritage were held in even greater esteem. Glen Osborne, Jonah Lomu, the centre pairing of Frank Bunce and Walter Little, Graeme Bachop, Ian Jones and Zinzan Brooke were idolised like no Springbok star ever could be.

We were being represented by men from New Zealand. In them lay our pride, our dreams, our resistance to the racist dinosaur that was South African rugby.

All we could think of was how apartheid had denied our greatest talents like Eric Majola, Millin Petersen, Cassiem Jabaar, Peter Makata, Charlie Davids and Salie Fredericks the opportunity to play for the country of their birth. Simply because of the colour of their skin.

For years, nay generations, the All Blacks had been our chosen ones. Our instrument of opposition. Ask any long-standing South African All Black supporter and the answer will invariably be “for as long as I can remember”.

And this carried on for a long time:

A sizeable contingent of these New Zealand-supporting fans and like-minded fan groupings, mainly from Port Elizabeth, therefore make it their business every year to follow the All Blacks to whichever Test venue in the team is playing at. Last year it was the FNB Stadium, today Ellis Park.

The uniqueness and peculiarity of this phenomenon is something that even the All Black players and management have over the years found a little odd. Where else in the world do you find a people, be they indigenous or from a colonial background, who so vociferously support a team from another country?

Most South Africans find this anomaly disturbing and perhaps it is this extreme notion of nationality and patriotism that exacerbates the levels of ill-feeling between local Springbok and All Blacks supporters.

And why does this anti-Springbok sentiment run so deep in large sections of the coloured community and not in the black African rugby fraternity, which also boasted a wonderful and rich history in the heartland of the Eastern Cape and which also suffered – and still suffers – the ravages of apartheid?

And why only rugby? Surely cricket has as racially divisive a past as the 15-man sports code.

More than two decades on from unification in cricket and Cricket South Africa is considering anew quotas for black African players in domestic cricket. Why then is there no such fervent support in the Cape for cricket teams from other countries?

It has been an interesting phenomenon.

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