Some awful things have happened in South Africa over the last 10 days, reflecting themselves in a depressing pall of negativity over a land that seems to have forgotten the miracle of the Rainbow Nation. Even us sports writers, fortunate as we are to pursue a career in something we love, are affected by the politics of the day.
Of course the results of our sporting heroes – and let’s be honest it’s been a poor year for South Africa – do affect us as well, although I always try to remember that it’s only a game. It’s far more important what sport can achieve in terms of bringing people together and changing lives.
So I’m delighted to report some good news in these tough times, a few encouraging things that have happened.
It is not easy to achieve complete transformation and equality because change is usually met with resistance and there is centuries of injustice to correct. It is difficult to come up with the right answers when one is trying to ensure representivity but also endeavouring to maintain standards and also do the right thing by the people you are trying to uplift.
It was most encouraging then to see our Springbok Sevens team triumph in the Cape Town stage of the World Series and do it with a fully transformed side. Following the blows to rugby’s transformation record at the 15-man World Cup, it was a timely reminder that there is plenty of black talent out there, it just needs to be nurtured.
Cricket had its own transformation scandal during their World Cup earlier in the year but it still seemed a low blow when Mark Nicholas, a former English county cricketer now commentating on Australian TV, suggested that South Africa will be the next international team to be “severely threatened” by the same disintegration that has afflicted West Indian cricket.
The financial situation outside of the Big Three is obviously a concern for Cricket South Africa, although it is ironic that the plummeting of the rand probably helps them (due to the sale of television rights in dollars) while it spells grave danger for rugby. But CEO Haroon Lorgat, a qualified chartered accountant, is a forward-thinking man and the organisation is running in a much leaner, efficient fashion than before.
Whatever White South Africans might think, the future of this country’s sport is Black – it’s simple economics and obvious when one considers the population.
The RamSlam T20 Challenge final at Centurion was a top-class evening, boasting great cricket, a sell-out crowd – one of the best I’ve seen for a domestic match since the days of isolation – and even the hero of the game was a Black player – Mangaliso Mosehle.
For me, the final offered a glimpse of what the future of South African cricket could be – and it took a lot of effort on the part of Cricket South Africa, the Titans and their marketing partners.
A thoroughly New South Africa crowd was entertained by Black Coffee and Euphonik; whereas Steve Hofmeyr would have been favoured by previous administrations.
I can only presume that Nicholas has been spending too much time with some of the expats in Australia who are notorious for broadcasting their opinion that everything is a nightmare in South Africa.
The day after the final, I spent the morning at Killarney Country Club where their Mandela Day fundraising is being put to good use coaching traumatised children in golf and tennis as part of their therapy. The sheer joy of the children and how apparent it was that they loved what they are doing, once again showed how much opportunity there is for sports bodies to tap into the raw talent that is there and hungry to be found.
The RamSlam T20 Challenge final,the Springbok Sevens’ success and the kids at Killarney Country Club showed what can be built when there is a will to be inclusive and a desire to spread the game and utilise the talent present in all communities.