Boks’ RWC bid faces legal challenge

Date published: August 31 2015

A South African political party is taking the country's sports minister and the South African Rugby Union to court in a bid to stop the Springboks from competing at the Rugby World Cup.

The Agency for New Agenda party (ANA) and its president Edward Mahlomola Mokhoanatse has sought an urgent order in the North Gauteng High Court to compel SARU and the South African sports department officials to surrender their passports so they cannot travel.

The basis for the ANA's application is an alleged lack of transformation in South African rugby.  They claim it is still dominated by whites and the team does not fully represent the majority of South Africans.

The matter is set to be hear on Wednesday September 2 in the Pretoria High Court before judge Ntendeya Mavundla.

The party has also written to World Rugby with a requesting a suspension for South Africa.

In his affidavit, Mokhoanatse said the court action is a “public duty to defend our Constitution and to consign to the rubbish bin of history all vestiges and remnants of racial bigotry, racial exclusion and discrimination”.

He added that although much has been done to transform South Africa, “some citizens resist such transformation and continue to practise activities, acts and conduct that are premised on unfair discrimination based on … race”.

Mokhoanatse that the Springboks' selection criteria are “racially exclusionary” and biased in favour of whites.

He also alleges that South Africa's sports minister Fikile Mbalula has failed to transform rugby and any argument presented by SARU to justify its failure to transform the sport should “be treated with disdain”.

Mokhoanatse added that SARU has betrayed the “trust of millions of South Africans who have entrusted the responsibility over the past 21 years to an organisation that clearly is unwilling and continues to resist change”.

“The participation of the non-representative and racially exclusionary national team of South Africa in favour of the minority section of the country’s population in the rugby World Cup is inconsistent with our Constitution and ought not to be permitted to represent South Africa,” he writes.

“The continued administration of South African rugby by both [Mbalula and Saru] … constitutes an affront to the values of the Constitution; that their collective dismal failure to change and transform rugby … should be regarded as an aberration, gross mismanagement, incompetence and ineptitude that should attract the severest of sanctions possible.”

A spokesman for South Africa's department of Sport and Recreation, Esethu Hasane, said the department would defend the court summons on Tuesday.

“It is imperative for all South Africans to support the national team,” he told Sport24.

Meanwhile, Mbalula urged South Africans to back the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup and said transformation in the senior national team cannot happen overnight.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has included eight black players in his 31-man squad for the global showpiece which starts on 18 September.

Mbalula said there are measures in place to ensure transformation in rugby takes place in the long term but also called for patience. 

“That includes effective full sport programme and the question of murdering the targets we’ve set for ourselves,” he explained.

He said Meyer has responded to calls for a more inclusive team. 

“It’s imperative for us to address these issues even beyond the World Cup but I think Heyneke Meyer and his men have responded,” added Mbalula.

The minister reiterated that the Boks need the country's full support and said he is optimistic that they will do well.