By Socrates Mbamalu
The recent appointment of Siyamthanda Kolisi as the first black captain of the Springboks after 127 years, 478 tests and 60 white captains in South African rugby heralded a new chapter. Last week, Springboks prop Tendai Mtawarira became the first black South African to earn 100 caps. Is South African rugby becoming more diverse and inclusive?
Tendai Mtawarira known by the nickname Beast reached his 100 cap after the Springboks played England on Saturday. The Springboks won 23-12 in Bloemfontein after England had initially taken the lead.
The Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said, “One positive was being down only by 12 points rather than 24 and we showed good composure to come back quicker this week. The guys realised where the mistakes were.”
South African rugby has for a long time been a white affair. In 1995, the sport played an important role in the unification of a scarred country that was just coming out fresh from the wounds of apartheid. South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and Nelson Mandela adorned the Springboks jersey.
The only black man in the Springboks squad, who would later become a face of inspiration for other black players that would join the Springboks was Chester Williams, nicknamed “The Black Pearl.” Errol Tobias was the first black man to play in a test match for the South African national side. He gained six caps between 1981 and 1984. Avril Percy Williams, whose nephew is Chester Williams, was the second black man to play for South Africa. He gained two caps in June 1984.
A file picture dated 24 June 1995 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok rugby jersey, as he waves to the crowds at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: ANP/EPA/Str
Tendai’s debut was in 2008 when South Africa played against Wales. He was just 22 years. Over time, he’s gained honours such as SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2008), Young Player of the Year nominee (2008). The Beast has continued playing the important role of being “the cornerstone of the Bok scrum.” Tendai is currently the first black South African rugby player to reach 100 caps. In all he’s played 103 matches for Springboks.
More progress is being made in relation to rugby and the inclusion of black players. Last week, Springboks coach Erasmus appointed the first black rugby captain, Siyamthanda Kolisi. The 26 year old Siyamthanda broke a 127 year history, 478 tests and 60 white captains. South Africa’s healing through sports is an ongoing process of a larger national discuss around race.