The South African sporting environment is a pretty harsh one for a professional players of colour sportsman, a reality that was established long before black people could even consider making sport a profession. Many white sportsmen were regarded as the best in their respective codes during the isolation years, where people of colour were never given the opportunity to test themselves against their white counterparts.
There have been plenty of attempts to rectify the social injustices of the past throughout South Africa’s sporting fraternity, which, in the initial stages’ of these strategies were devoid of any practicality. Now begs the question as to why the South African Men’s Sevens side have been successful in the implementation of these transformation strategies? Have rugby administrators finally come to their senses and made sensible and knowledgeable and practical decisions regarding the implementation of transformation, or has Coach Neil Powell (who is a former sevens player himself) always known that players of colour are of equal talent and ability to those of their white counterparts? I have a strong suspicion that the latter may be an appropriate response.
The Blitzboks were recently crowned the HSBC World Sevens Series Champions beating Scotland in their eighth final in nine tournaments, and with one more to be played in London. This was the first time in eight years that the Blitzbokke have won the Series title (Last time was in 2009) and in the process Neil Powell became the first person to win the World Series as a player and a coach.
There are notable records in the performance history of the Blitzboks that can’t be ignored. Since the Rio Olympics last year August, until the last triumphant weekend in Paris, the Blitzboks squad composition has seen Neil Powell field no less than seven players of colour in his squad of 12. Although Seabelo Senatla has been released to play Super Rugby with the Stormers, he still leads the try scoring chart for South Africans with 32 tries in the series, Senatla who is a player of colour has been South Africa’s most attacking threat for a number of seasons. The dreadlocked flyer also went passed legend Fabian Juries this season as the highest try scorer in South African 7’s history with 189. Players of colour have not only set the standard amongst their fellow South Africans, they have also demonstrated international reputability. Three South Africans rank among the top 10 try scorers of all time, and they are all players of colour (Seabelo Senatla 189, Fabian
Juries 179 and Cecil Afrika 154)
*All time 7’s try scorers
Other players like Tim Agaba, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Branco du Preez, Justin Geduld, and Sandile Ngcobo have delivered stellar performances whenever they have been called on this season, and with young players like Stedman Gans, and Zane Davids coming through the ranks, the South African Sevens side will continue to be a vessel for transformation in this country.
Written for The Pundits by @psixaba