South Africa rugby boss denies racism in World Cup team

September 11, 2015, 11:55am

South Africa rugby boss denies racism in World Cup team

South Africa's rugby chief has hit back at allegations of racism following a row over the selection of a mainly white squad for the World Cup.

Oregan Hoskins said efforts were being made to promote the game among black people, and he did not need a "lecture" on racial transformation.

Eight black players have been included in the 31-member squad.

Critics say good black players were excluded, and racism is rife in South African rugby.

They say they expected at least 30% of the squad to be made up of black players, in a country where white minority rule ended some 21 years ago.

South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela famously donned the Springboks jersey at the 1995 World Cup final in Johannesburg, in a move aimed at promoting racial reconciliation.

The Springboks are due to fly to England on Friday in their latest bid to win the trophy.

They will play their first match against Japan on 19 September in the coastal city of Brighton.

In an open letter to South Africans, Mr Hoskins, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) president, urged the nation to show loyalty by rallying behind the team.

It was "frankly laughable" to suggest that rugby remained an "exclusive, white-dominated" sport, he said.

"What we are is a successful, high performance sport in a competitive global environment; we are a responsible South African corporate citizen and we are a business," Mr Hoskins added.

He said rugby had "massively transformed" since legalised discrimination ended.

At a time when Saru was "lambasted for being an elite, white sport we opened our 32nd mobile gym for black schools and clubs" and "inaugurated our fifth 'Boks for Books' library in an under-privileged school," Mr Hoskins added.

"Did that rate a mention? Was any of that weighed in the scales of criticism of 'evil' SARU?" he said.

Last month, the small Agency for New Agenda (ANA) party failed in a court bid to prevent the squad from taking part in the World Cup.

It accused rugby authorities of racial bigotry, and said the squad did not represent South Africa, where the overwhelming majority of people are black.

The judge said he did not have the power to hear the case, but he criticised the "snail's pace" of racial transformation in sport.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has also come out in support of the team.