Boks bond ahead of clash with the French

Should the Springboks fail to win any of their three tests on the current European Tour it won’t be because of any racial disharmony unlike the Hollywood-style sheen they gave to their 1995 World Cup triumph.

The latter myth has been brutally exposed by black winger Chester Williams in his recently published biography recounting how he would be left to eat on his own while his white team-mates ate on other tables together.

Fiery winger James Small also called him a ‘fucking kaffir’ on no less than two occasions and according to their current speedster Breyton Paulse that sort of attitude did not stop with the arrival of English-born coach Nick Mallett, who guided them to a world

record equalling 17 successive test wins.

”The two years under Mallett were the hardest of my life. I felt isolated,” confessed the coloured winger.

”It was so tough that it came close to breaking my spirit and giving up the sport,” added the 26-year-old, who will win his 37th cap against France on Saturday.

However under the recently installed regime of Rudolf Straeuli, who was a member of the 1995 squad who has admitted he could have done more to be friendlier to Williams, all that has changed as a friend of the winger told AFP.

”We had a team meeting last weekend and Gideon Sam (the team manager who is black) demanded any player white or black should stand up and express themselves if they had prejudices either way,” he said.

”He said obviously that they could also come to him in private but the days of keeping those prejudices under wraps were over.”

Springboks captain Corne Krige took the lead by standing up and addressing the squad. ”We (the whites) should have nothing to be prejudiced about as

we have known nothing like the suffering of the blacks because we have always been the majority in the squad,” he said.

Such has been the change in atmosphere that Paulse stood up and spoke in Afrikaans — according to the source it was the first time the 1999 World Cup veteran had spoken in a team meeting.

”This environment is entirely different, no longer do I feel I am an outcast and I am overjoyed to be part of this squad,” he said.

Paulse will be one of three black or coloured players in the starting line-up against France — centre Adi Jacobs and prop Lawrence Sephaka, the players player of the year, being the others — and the source said AFP the years of senior players thinking they were there because of a quota system were gone.

”This squad is young and several have already played with each other and grown up in a post-apartheid regime where at mixed schools they have learnt to sing the new national anthem.

”That gives one great hope for the future,” he said.

Williams, whose performances for the Springboks inspired players such as Sephaka and Paulse to take up the game, has received a backlash for his boldness in rewriting the fantasy image of 1995.

”People have said why did he wait so long. But how could he have written it before when he was living and playing in such an atmosphere,” the source told AFP.

”It’s like querying why a woman who has been beaten all her married life only talks about it when she finally leaves her husband.

”For sure he has paid a price. The other night there was a banquet for 700 guests where Andre Venter, Mark Andrews and Chester were being given awards for their contributions to South African rugby.

”Both Andre and Mark received standing ovations from all the guests… when Chester went up perhaps 50 stood up.” Under Straeuli’s regime such prejudices will not be allowed to rear their head — and South Africa rugby can only get better for it on and off the pitch. – Sapa-AFP

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Pirate Irwin
Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening. 

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