NEWS
21/05/2018 13:21 SAST | Updated 21/05/2018 13:47 SAST

'It's Common Knowledge That In Rugby, Black Players Don't Get A Fair Deal'

Rugby reporter Sibusiso Mjikeliso weighs in on the Willemse furore.

Andrew Boyers / Reuters

Rugby reporter Sibusiso Mjikeliso — who is also the commercial manager for Kick-Off and the author of "Being A Black Springbok, The Thando Manana Story" — says there have always been racial divides in rugby.

"It's common knowledge in rugby that black players don't get a fair deal," he told HuffPost on Monday, in the wake of rugby pundit Ashwin Willemse's walkout on Saturday night during a SuperSport appearance with Nick Mallett and Naas Botha.

Willemse apparently took objection to the term "quota player", and accused Mallett and Botha — two players, as he put it, from the "apartheid segregated era" — of "patronising" and "undermining" him. All three men are former Springboks.

The video has since gone viral and started a conversation about the place of black people in the rugby fraternity.

"A quota is an affirmative action term for the number of black people specified to play for a certain team. The term was introduced in the late 1990s to fast-track racial transformation," Mjikeliso explained.

He says the same term has been used as a slur to diminish black players' talent.

WATCH: Former Springbok Lawrence Sephaka Says Words 'Quota Player' Should Be Dropped

"They're dubbed 'quotas' as a slur, to discriminate against them. That was the adverse effect of having the quota system. The white players — who did not necessarily agree with the quota system — they could not discern between a merit black player and a quota black player," he added.

They're dubbed 'quotas' as a slur, to discriminate against them.

He added: "It has also been used psychologically, to break down certain players."

According to Mjikeliso, players have complained about this in the past.

"The first black Springbok to play in a World Cup, Kaya Malotana, once spoke of discrimination against black players — they were called 'quota players' to insinuate that they did not deserve a place in the team, just because they were black."

In his first four years under Heyneke Meyer — a white Afrikaans coach — Siya Kolisi was one of the best players, yet he never started a game.

He mentions the example of Breyton Paulse, and the outrage that ensued when he was chosen over a white player.

He also points to Siya Kolisi — who Mjikeliso says was benched regardless of how good his performances were, and who only got a chance to be part of the Bok starting 15 under Allister Coetzee.

"In his first four years under Heyneke Meyer — a white Afrikaans coach — Siya Kolisi was one of the best players, yet he never started a game."

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) declined to comment.

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