Who is being the real beast?

2010-01-15 00:00

HOW ironic sport in South Africa is. Monstrous Springbok rugby bullies are heralded as champions of the game because of their aggression and gung-ho approach to their chosen profession, yet the gentlemen of the team can often face more political persecution than anyone else.

The bullies sometimes transgress the line of what is and isn’t acceptable when dishing out pain to opposition teams but these players are participating in a contact sport that requires the occasional stanza of thuggery to settle the score.

I am in no way condoning intentional and malicious acts of violence in sport but anyone who has played a rugby match at any level can understand how the odd punch or stomp from a size 14 gets into the game.

What is more disturbing than the (now) few and far between bouts on the rugby field is the apparent desire for our sporting administrators to don their gloves, chew on a mouthpiece and climb into the ring, attacking our own players in the process.

We all wear the King Protea now. Surely they can identify the goodies from the baddies?

This is where sport in South Africa flies off on a tangent.

The much loved and revered Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira is the latest rugby player to feel the wrath of the (not so) mighty Butana Komphela — and not for the first time. He has been threatened with apparent deportation back to Zimbabwe and the South Africa Rugby Union (Saru) is going to be punished by our intrepid chairman of the sports portfolio committee for fielding a foreign national.

Wonderful words of encouragement from our administrators who go to great lengths to unite the country behind one team and dispel the “myth” of rampant xenophobia in South Africa.

Mtawarira has become a firm favourite in South African rugby circles and the cry of “Beast!” from spectators whenever he gets the ball or makes a tackle adds a special something to ever­y game he participates in.

It is unfortunate that this icon of the game is treated with such disrespect and is singled out to face a barrage of verbal cheap shots from the sporting powers that be.

The player who comes across as being the nicest bloke in the team, the guy who always looks a little nervous on television when interviewed after matches and never takes the glory for powerful individual performances surely doesn’t need to be threatened like a criminal on the run after nicking a Bar One from a garage shop.

Komphela’s latest tirade comes at a time when we should be embracing the heroic efforts of our Springboks on the field during the 2009 season to further press 2010 as our greatest sporting year.

Instead of picking a fight with the Beast, which would be an entertaining one and hopefully posted on YouTube, the sports portfolio committee should investigate the matter internally and act accordingly.

If the Beast is not yet eligible to represent South Africa, why was he allowed to play in the first place? Who approved his selection and what still needs to be done in terms of paperwork until he can run onto the field wearing the green and gold without worrying about the border patrol (disguised as water boys) waiting to trip him up and post him back to Zimbabwe?

Khompela’s concern is justified. The Springboks (and the Proteas and Bafana Bafana for that matter) represent the South African nation on the field and should therefore be comprised of South African nationals.

But if (or when) Mtawarira meets the country’s selection criteria and is eligible to represent the Springboks in accordance with the International Rugby Board rule books, he must play.

Not only is the Beast invaluable to the game as an agent for transformation and encouraging youngsters across the colour bar to play together, but he also is probably the Springbok who sings the national anthem with the most gusto. A valuable person to have when one thinks back to France, 2009.

The Beast is a talented player who can be used to promote the game and the country by our sports administrators.

Yes, our national teams must be made of South African citizens with the correct papers and work permits in their back pockets but there is no need to attack the individual in such a derogatory and threatening manner.

• Shaun Ryan has a master of social science degree in cultural and media studies, and graduated from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2009.

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