South African coach Rassie Erasmas was quick to explain why winger Makazole Mapimpi was excluded from celebrations at the end of their win over Italy, hosing down claims of racism within the squad.
The match broadcast captured six white South Africans appearing to exclude Mapimpi from the celebrations, which Erasmus explained as a team joke that has nothing to do with race.
“I would like to explain it. I know the people who want to take it the right way will take it the right way, and the majority of the people in South Africa want to take it the right way,” he told media on Sunday.
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Erasmus explained that within the squad the team has factions that receive nicknames for the jobs they are required to do for the team.
“Everybody that’s been part of a touring or Springbok side know that in a squad of 31, there are guys who make the 23, and the eight guys outside the 23 are called the dirt-trackers.
“Those are the guys like Bongi, who are not playing against Canada. They help you prepare for the test match.
“Then you get the starting 15, and the reserves, who call themselves different names. For example, we currently on this tour call them the ‘Bomb Squad’, because they must come in and either fix it – when it’s not going well on the park or they must sort out the situation.
“Or it’s just a false alarm, where they are not even going on to the park. So, it’s a kind of a standing joke in the team. The whole week, the joke was around Lood de Jager, who was now out of the Bomb Squad because he is now in the starting line-up, and Sous (Franco Mostert) was now part of the Bomb Squad.
“So, the standing joke for the week was that he (de Jager) doesn’t qualify for the Bomb Squad anymore. It was a teasing thing the whole week.
“At the end of the game, and the Bomb Squad was getting together, Lood was on his way there, and Frans Steyn told him ‘No, you are not part of the Bomb Squad anymore!’
As the private celebration took place, starting winger Mapimpi also attempted to join before realising it was the ‘Bomb Squad’ and turning away.
“So, it was a joke – just a joke about Lood not joining there. And Mapimps was on his way to the Bomb Squad, and he saw it was the Bomb Squad and he just turned around.
Erasmus ensured that it had nothing to do with his skin colour and that he would never allow anything like that in his team. Mapimpi also turned to Twitter to explain the situation in a video posted on the social media platform.
“It’s so sad that somebody could see something negative in that because I can give you my word – I would not, as a head coach, allow anything like that in the team, and there is nothing like that in the team.
“So, for those who want to see something negative in that, I guess they will find something negative.
The coach insists that the team is as united as ever, where no player would ever be excluded based on race.
“But I guarantee that the other 95 percent of people in South Africa, who wants to know the truth, that is the truth. I can guarantee you that this team is such a nice, close-knit team, and there will never be something like that, where a team member can’t be in a huddle.
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