South African Rugby bosses have claimed they are willing to have the “difficult and uncomfortable conversations”, insisting they are ready to tackle issues such as racism head-on. Speaking at a virtual media briefing this week which was reported by rugby365.com, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux explained his organisation will not steer away from the burning issues on the table.
However, he made it clear these matters transcend far beyond just sport and involve “respect for human beings across the board” – whether that be Black Lives Matter, farm murders or gender-based violence.
A large group of South Africa’s leading non-white coaches and players recently accused SA Rugby of being silent on “racism and inequality” in the game, the group expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and saying they want to put an end to inequality in sport and oppose racism wherever it exists.
This was followed by Springbok captain Siya Kolisi breaking his silence, saying for him it was “more than just about sport”. In response, SA Rugby boss Roux made it clear they are in support of solving all the issues on the table.
“As a federation, with no disrespect to any of the other federations, we have been very good in acknowledging the sins and the wrongs of the past,” said Roux. “We have been making very good progress around transformation, especially in terms of the new strategic transformation plan we have set out up until 2030. Within that, there are 36 dimensions and we have agreed on targets with all our unions. We run audits (on those targets).”
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While he was happy for players and coaches – including Kolisi – to express their views on any public forums, Roux said it is not just about the BLM movement. “What we are dealing with here – in terms of Black Lives Matter, farm murders, gender-based violence and all of the other problems the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) has asked us to look at in this country – transcends far beyond what transformation and a transformation plan are.
“We are now dealing with what is basically respect for others, respect for cultural differences, respect for human life and how we treat people on a daily basis.”
He said SA Rugby and the sport have shown that they can materially influence certain elements in the way they operate and the way they react to those things. “In terms of Black Live Matter specifically, towards the issues that are currently on the table, we need to own up in terms of those conversations and not steer away from them. The first thing we need to do is to let people tell their stories.
“However, more importantly, we have to listen to those stories and hear what they are saying. We should let people voice what they believe is wrong. We have to continue the dialogue and we have to figure it out together. If we need to adapt to help figure it out, then absolutely we have to do that. What we should not do is steer away from uncomfortable conversations and awkward truths. Those are the realities of our lives.”
He reiterated that these are “very serious” matters that transcend way beyond sport and are part of people’s daily lives. “There are people voicing their concerns. We have to take those concerns, listen to what they say and look at where we stand in terms of those (issues). If we need to change our approach then we have to change.”
He added that director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has presented a plan around the fast-tracking of black coaches and getting the federation to the target much quicker. He made it clear that they must provide people with the opportunity to tell their stories, stories of how things possibly went wrong in the past.
SA Rugby CEO Roux also described Springbok captain Kolisi as his own man. “He got himself into the position where he is. He led us to a World Cup-winning position. It’s not for me or anybody else in SA Rugby to tell him what he can and can’t say on any platform.
“He has enough leadership capabilities and enough respect from us to allow him to tell his own story. I will never tell Siya what he can and can’t say. He must express his own opinion. I respect Siya’s remarks and also every other person that wants to express an opinion about the matter.”
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