Politics bedevils rugby

FILE PHOTO: Bulls supporters cheer on their team during a match. Picture: Neil McCartney

FILE PHOTO: Bulls supporters cheer on their team during a match. Picture: Neil McCartney

Blue Bulls Company chief executive Barend van Graan yesterday reiterated an earlier assertion that the union would not be drawn into a debate regarding an earlier call by AfriForum to boycott future matches at Loftus.

The civil rights organisation’s CEO Kallie Kriel believes the Bulls “turned their backs on loyal supporters” by reportedly voting in favour of the South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) plan to implement quotas in next year’s Vodacom Cup.

“We don’t want to get involved in anything nasty,” said Van Graan. “All I want to do is categorically state that the Bulls have always supported the drive towards transformation and that we’re fully committed to Saru’s transformation charter.”

He added that the ballot at last week’s president’s council meeting was a secret one and that he did not have the mandate to disclose which way the union’s representatives voted.

Kriel alleged that political pressure was involved. “The reason is the Bulls have turned their backs on their loyal supporters that pay to watch rugby at Loftus and they’ve done that in favour of following the racial ideology of the ANC,” he said.

“People pay to watch rugby and not politics. The problem we have in South African rugby is that we have politicians putting pressure on Saru.” According to research done by BMI last year, the Bulls’ supporters profile consists of 32% white, 49% black and 19% coloured and Asian rugby fans.

Saru’s hand may have been forced by a definite lack of representation among the country’s top teams in the past but the Bulls are hardly the main culprits.

This weekend’s line-up against Griquas contains six non-white players in the match squad of 22, along with Western Province (six) and Free State (six). Meanwhile, a union like the Sharks only have four non-white players and the Lions two.


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