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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

South African Rugby: Can a Flower Bury the Past?


More than 15 years after the end of apartheid, the proud South African rugby team must let go of its old emblem, replacing it with the national flower.


imageThe old logo for the South African rugby team, the springbok, with a small protea flower waiting in the wings.

After much soul-searching and history-stirring, public outcry, and private deliberation, a flower will represent the South African rugby team.

The King Protea takes over from the springbok, a native gazelle which has leaped on the jerseys of the team for more than 100 years.

Now all of South Africa’s national sports teams will be represented by one emblem, the magnum national flower. Rugby had been the last holdout.

If you wonder why a patch of embroidery could cause such uproar, consider that rugby is to South Africa what soccer is to Brazil and basketball to Kentucky—as zeal-inducing as religion (and a whole lot more lucrative and sexy). But in South Africa rugby more than all other athletics has been bound up with apartheid.

“The Afrikaner Broederbond (Brotherhood), a secretive formally structured power elite that ran the country’s key institutions helped choose Springbok rugby captains, just as they chose military commanders and prime ministers. ‘Rugby was always seen as apartheid at play,’ said Andy Colquhoun, a leading South African rugby commentator…. Even now, he adds, ‘it is a crucial part of the white psyche. It is South Africa.’ Or, at least, white South Africa”

South Africa’s team was excluded from international rugby competition during the apartheid era. And in 1992, when national sports were desegregated, the Springbok team remained all white.


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Posted by Julie on 12/02 at 10:38 PM
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