South Africa’s first gay rugby team is planning a tour into the sport’s traditional heartlands to tackle discrimination head-on.
As chairman of Jozi Cats, as well as one of the players, Teveshan Kuni has come up with the risky plan as he bids to eventually enter the team into a local league. He plans a December tour of the Free State and possibly Western Cape – the nation’s traditional rugby heartlands – for the Cats’ first matches. The Cats will also hold coaching clinics in underprivileged areas.
The Cats are affiliated to the Wanderers Rugby Club in Johannesburg’s affluent Illovo. But away from Illovo, Kuni accepts a team of gay rugby players may not be welcomed with open arms.
“We’ve come up with a plan to tackle this head-on,” he said during a visit to Berlin last week. We’re going to put on a tour bus, drive to the heart of South African rugby and see if we can get some friendly games going.”
Kuni was in Berlin to take part in a tournament – “The Bash About” – for about 125 mostly gay players, with 30 nationalities represented from some of the 70 gay rugby clubs around the world.
South Africa has some of the most open laws on the African continent, where homosexuality is a crime in some 40 countries. Gay marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) rights are constitutionally protected and Joburg has a large gay community. But rugby is a tough nut to crack.
The Springboks were world champions in 1995 and 2007, but prejudice and bigotry makes it difficult to be openly gay in the country’s rugby community. Kuni, however, a 34-year-old chartered accountant of Indian origin, is determined to break through such barriers.