Male and female rugby players at club and international level have chosen to kneel down in support of the Black Lives Matter movement for the past 18 months, but the move has not been unanimously adopted by teams and players from all over the sport.
The Springboks – world champions in 1995, 2007 and 2019 – are one example.
“I just don’t think that’s a directive right now,” Sport Habana, who has made 124 appearances for the Springboks and scored 67 tries, told CNN of the decision not to kneel.
He added: “All of the players on this team have had various statements over the past year and a half and in doing so, hopefully show that rugby is definitely against racism.”
When asked if he would have taken the knee as a player, Habana replied: “I think I would, if we were asked or if there was an opportunity to do so.
“We saw with the Autumn Nations Cup last year held in the UK that there were a number of players who would, and I most certainly would have if the opportunity had been offered to me. “
The act of taking a knee, which was popularized by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality, has proven to be a divisive sports topic. in South Africa.
Last year, South African players from England’s Premiership team Sale Sharks drew public attention for not kneeling; like their teammates, they wore T-shirts with the words “Rugby Against Racism” before games.
“Rugby as a real dream”
The Springboks’ Rugby World Cup triumph two years ago marked a turning point in South Africa’s sporting and social history with Siya Kolisi, the team’s first black captain, winning the Webb Ellis Trophy .
It came 24 years after Francois Pienaar accepted Nelson Mandela’s trophy a year after apartheid ended – an iconic moment in rugby history.
Havana, who have scored a joint record of 15 World Cup tries in their career, hailed today’s Springboks team as “truly representative” of South Africa.
“To have our captain [Siya Kolisi] being the first black African not only to be captain, then to win a World Cup, to have likes [wingers] Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe become first players to score a try in Rugby World Cup final for South Africa and really have some tangible stories that concern 60 percent of our population who can now see rugby like a real dream i think is extremely special, ”he said.
Since the World Cup, the Springboks have continued to play with power and precision under Erasmus leadership and have recently returned to the top of the World Rugby standings ahead of New Zealand after victories over Scotland and Wales. .
Their style has received some criticism – not least for its emphasis on forward play and dominance of set pieces – but the team have shown they can play attractive rugby as well, most recently when Mapimpi scored two tries exploiting the wide canals against Scotland. Saturday.
“As a former player and someone who knows that winning can make or break your career, I think when you play for your strengths, when you play for things that make you better and win you, it’s really important to potentially understand where the criticism is coming from, ”said Habana, speaking as an ambassador for Land Rover upon the release of the nominations for the World Rugby Awards.
He added: “What we’ve seen over the last few years is extremely effective and successful. I know the boys will be more concerned with winning than potentially the style of play. The longer they win, I think. that the more enjoyable they will be after the game. “
‘Tempting’ repeat of the World Cup final
The Springboks’ next game will be against England at Twickenham on Saturday – a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final.
And for further intrigue, Erasmus was banned from rugby for two months this week after being found guilty of threatening match officials during this year’s British and Irish Lions tour.
He was also banned from all game day activity until September of next year and has been warned about his future behavior. South Africa Rugby was fined $ 27,000 (£ 20,000) for the incident, which saw Erasmus release an hour-long video criticizing the performance of match official Nic Berry.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, England are undefeated since March and recorded their eighth straight win over Australia last week, while South Africa look to wipe out a clean slate at this month’s Autumn Open. this.
“I think this English team is full of confidence,” said Habana.
“Looking at what happened last weekend against Australia, South Africa will have to be extremely careful in all facets of the game if they are to try to replicate what happened in 2019.
“This is going to make for an absolutely tantalizing clash… I know many are touting this as the potential Fall International Series finale; I hope it lives up to that label.”
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