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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Springbok Hypocrisy

It is a bit rich that one of the reasons the South African rugby council are citing as an obstacle for the Springboks to be able to play the New Zealand Maori Rugby team is that the Maori team are "selected along racial lines." Apparently "the council forbids South African rugby teams playing against opponents selected on racial lines."

Just as well the Springboks cannot play themselves then.

Tonight's TV3 report on the matter included a statement that the Springboks have a quota-policy that requires a minimum of 5 of their players to be non-white. At least five of the Springboks players are selected because of their race.

So let's get this straight. South Africa can refuse to play rugby teams with team members selected on the basis of race but they don't have to select their team to the same standard they hold everyone else to. There is a word for that.

Did the TV3 reporter pick up on this despite pointing it out? No of course not. Neither did the New Zealand rugby union who, if TV3 are reporting this correctly, are taking the tactic of trying to deny the New Zealand Maori team are selected on the basis of race.
New Zealand is fighting back against a South African suggestion that the Maori Rugby Team is racially selected.
Hello. Who do they think that is going to fool? What is the name of the NZ team again? Can non-maori play for it?

Apparently no one in New Zealand can reason so I guess everyone will fall for it.

I am surrounded by idiots.

UPDATE: It appears the double standard was not lost on TV1,

There is also what appears a contradictory situation given South African sides, including the Springboks, must include a quota of non-white players.


  1. TV1's focus on the hypocrisy was more mentioned as an afterthought. The NZRFU person they put it to didn't seem to get that it was a strong argument at all either. He said something like 'we have enough issues to sort through without going there, this is a complex issue.'

    So you are right, the media and the NZRFU both completely missed the hammering the best line of defence. Small wonder though as reasoning skills are not taught in schools so most of the population lack them.

  2. As a South African, let me post some thoughts in defense of the Springboks. This isn't to say that I agree with their policy—I just want to point out some disparities between their situation and the Maori rugby team, which I think largely deflect the allegation of hypocrisy.

    The Springboks are South Africa's flagship, national team. South Africa's population is largely non-white (it could be as high as 90% non-white, but I don't recall exactly; anyway, the figure is high). South Africa is still recovering from a relatively recent bout of severe apartheid, during which non-whites were heavily oppressed and typically unable to participate in national-level sports (among, of course, other things, like, you know, getting an education). Because of this, steps have understandably been taken since the fall of apartheid (pronounced, incidentally, uh-PAR-tate, for all you Kiwis) to undo some of that racial discrimination. Affirmative action is a pretty common method of ensuring that previously under-privileged groups are gradually built up towards the same standing as the privileged groups. I don't necessarily agree with it, and it's certainly far from perfect, but it's a method which is used, and the reasons for it are fairly obvious. It isn't a reverse apartheid, and even if it was, an argument could be made for justifying it on the basis of past wrongs. Balance has to be restored.

    With this context in mind, it's not hard to see why there is a requirement that a certain number of non-white players be included on the national rugby team. Of course, traditionally blacks and coloreds are interested in soccer more than rugby, so I'm sure this is having a deleterious effect on the team, as less skilled non-white players are chosen over more skilled white ones. And I'm sure those white players who get left out because of it aren't too thrilled. But one way or another, the selection process will tend to be unfair—South Africa has chosen affirmative action as a means to try to alleviate the existing unfairness to blacks, and that sometimes results in a reciprocal unfairness to whites. In my opinion, that's just too bad. Of course, when it comes to running Cape Town's nuclear power station, I'm less in favor of affirmative action. Rolling blackouts over a city of four or five million for weeks on end are a high price to pay for firing the white technicians, as compared to losing the world cup when you lose some of your white rugby players. Each situation is different and should be evaluated on its own terms. But generally speaking, I'd be inclined to say that while I don't think affirmative action is a very good system, it is probably the only viable system, short of allowing the status to remain quo. And that isn't really an option.

    It's also not hard to see why South African rugby players would be particularly sensitive to racially selected teams. In the past, the Springboks were racially selected. They were all white, because whites were privileged. The current racial quota is attempting to undo that discrimination, by enforcing a certain amount of racial diversity in the team. So it's understandable that they would not want to play teams which select their members on the basis of being one particular race. That's what apartheid does. That's what South Africa is trying to recover from. They'll be damned if they're going to play teams which are still doing that.

    Given all this, I think there's quite a significant disanalogy between the Springboks' racial profiling, and the racially selected Maori team. For the Springboks to be hypocritical, they would have to be doing what they were doing back in the 1980s; their current policies with regard to race actually set them apart as doing quite the opposite to the Maori team, both in terms of intent, and in terms of diversity. So while, superficially, there is an ironic similarity between the two teams, at a deeper level there's a much more important dissimilarity which makes accusations of hypocrisy unfounded and unfair. Whether or not you agree with the methods the Springboks are employing to achieve racial equity, the fact remains that that's their goal. What's the goal of the Maori team? To have a Maori-only team, of course. You can see why South Africans (at least non-racist ones) would have a problem with that.

    And of course, even if the Springboks were being hypocritical, that wouldn't change the validity of their rule about not playing racially selected teams. It would just make them inconsistent with their own values. What the Springboks do to select their team doesn't affect the rightness or wrongness of having a Maori rugby team playing at the national level. It would be pretty interesting to see what would happen if someone here tried to set up a national Pakeha rugby team. No Maori allowed. Just whites. Might get a bit of a different reaction, eh. That's the double standard that South Africans see when they look at New Zealand. They see apartheid all over again (not as severe, of course)—only this time the privileged class are the Maori.


  3. To move the comments to a more 'sporting nature' one of the reasons the NZRFU haven't come out strong on this issue is that SA are considering moving into the nrth hemp.

    Considering they are in that timezone and that is where all the money is and where their players head to earn cash I am not surprised.

    If we ever saw one of the big 3 countries NZ/AUS/SA leave sth hemp rugby it would be very difficult for the two unions that were left.

    Just watch the Sth Africans flex their muscles over the next few years!!!!

    We are just at the tip of the iceberg.

  4. Actually, the best explanation I've heard of this that makes any sense is from Willie Jackson.

    Through back-channels the NZRU have asked the SARU to block the Maori Team's fixtures this year and subsequently kill their profile, which will underplay the NZRU cutting the team's funding.

    You can't have a NZ team without formal funding touring around cap-in-hand. Gosh, how would that affect "the All Black Brand".

  5. Ozy's idea above is also appealing and very sensible.


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