The Burden of Showing Springbok Support in the 21st Century

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The Rugby World Cup 2019 is done and dusted. But a question still lingers: was it a burden for some, maybe many, South Africans who supported their national team but also had to show support for the Springbok emblem?

In the days before the final game, a few South African opinion makers and politicians speedily and vocally entered the frenzy of Springbok support. But they side-stepped a fundamental issue at hand – the moral legitimacy of this symbol that has roots deep in colonial, segregation and apartheid rugby structures.

The vast majority of rugby fandom that includes match ticket payers, television viewers and the few privileged ones in the private suites of corporate companies does not often show much concern about this historical burden. Yet, there should be much concern about it – particularly in the status of the Springbok symbol.

It’s a symbol that has a recorded history dating back to 1898 when a South African cycling team displayed the Springbok in a series of meetings in England. Since then it has remained a symbol of white exclusitivity. When the apartheid sport structures started to consider black people eligible for receiving Springbok colours from the late 1960’s they were awarded half Springbok colours – only the head. Examples included bodybuilders David Isaacs and Pat Graham.

When Nelson Mandela, in a spirit of reconciliation and goodwill, showed support for retaining the symbol in 1995, there would have been a sigh of relief among the former establishment rugby fraternity (maybe even a sense of victory). For their part, former anti-apartheid rugby activists, who were taken up in the post-apartheid structures, had to come to terms with embracing a symbol that they had previously rejected.

But was it a Pyrrhic victory for apartheid sport s

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