Chris Roper

Greenbacks and gold

2009-07-08 08:26

See! See! This is what happens when you make a black man the coach of the Springboks. Suddenly they're wearing protest armbands, standing up for justice, and fighting for human rights.

Listen, if bleeding heart liberals won rugby matches, Sweden would be the world rugby champions. It's like that Michael Du Plessis guy has come back to haunt us. What were you thinking, Bokke? If we'd wasted our time fighting apartheid in the 80s instead of playing rugby, would we have smashed the plucky New Zealand Cavaliers? No, I didn't think so.

People, have we so soon forgotten the immortal words of Naas Botha: "Cowboys don't cry. They moer Indians"? (For our overseas visitors who don't speak Afrikaans, moer means "nurture".)

Ag, I'm just kidding. I'm 120% (the full Monty, in other words) behind the Bokke's new foray into the world of protest politics. To gratuitously quote the late, great Michael Jackson (hello, Google - notice me, notice me!), if you can't beat it, join it.

Our governments over the ages have perfected the trick of telling us that their useless service delivery is because they're focused on a higher purpose - the ultimate betterment of all people in this country. Now the Bokke can tell us they played badly because they were protesting a higher cause, and that's why they took their eyes off the ball.

Justice for Bakkies or bakkies for justice?

I must admit, I initially thought the "Justice 4 Bakkies" armband was an advertising slogan for the SA Judiciary system, outlining the minimum bribe necessary to get your case decided the "right" way. But I soon figured out that it was a gesture of protest.

I thought making the armbands white was a particularly poignant touch. White, the colour of a wronged Toyota Hilux. White, the colour of purity, of justice. Of that Jake guy who used to coach us. Of Minki van der Westhuizen's underwear.

Many Lions fans have asked me what the "Bakkies" bit of Botha's name means, and I've lied to all of them, and told them it means van, as in the aforementioned Toyota. But it occurred to me - if I'm going to march around Parliament next week with people holding placards bearing the words "You strike a Bakkies, you strike a rock!", "One Settler, One Bakkies", and "Give me Bakkies or Give Me Death!", I should find out what the word actually means.

The Afrikaans staff at Nuus24 had mixed explanations. One said it means "face", one said it was probably from "baksteen" (brick), and some other guy wandering past said it was from "Bak Ore" (Buckears).

I asked the Sport24 editor "Tank" Lanning, himself an ex-rugby player with a strange nickname. In his case, he's named after a goldfish tank, in honour of his ability to drink a sixpack in three minutes and then forget his real name. But he could shed no light on Bakkies' provenance.

So I turned to more current players, and asked @VictorMatfield on Twitter. Alas, his update said "Going hunting with the familie and Bossie. Cant wait to sit next to the fire and just listen to the silence." So I don't expect him to get back to me by the time this column is published.

(And by the way, go follow the man. He only has 394 followers to date, and he's to be applauded for entering the Web 2.0 scrum from the side. He's good value too. Well, I'm assuming it's really him.)

But then I thought - hey, do we really need to know what "Bakkies" means? He's a hero, a symbol of our liberation struggle. Nobody cares that Nelson Mandela is named after that bullying kid on The Simpsons, or that Mother Theresa was named after a mother (interesting fact, that last one). These are all authentic heroes, who've made their names into brands for freedom.

Personal choices

And joking aside - I really do support the Springboks in their protest. I share their loathing for despotic three-letter organisations that make careless decisions that affect our lives (IRB, ANC, NGK, KFC and so on).

It's a sad day when people aren't allowed to make personal choices about what they believe in, just because administrators think that the sport should just be all about money. Sure, there are consequences, like being the laughing stock of much of the rugby world. But in Peter De Villiers the Bokke have a fine coach who has amply prepared them for being sniggered at. Still, that's what it means to make a sacrifice for a higher cause, I guess.

The key question for me is this - are the same players who bravely donned their armbands going to be as supportive of the soon-to-be-striking workers building our soccer World Cup stadiums? These guys earn R2500 a month, coincidentally exactly the same amount of money that Peter De Villiers spends a week on SMSing to SARU apologising for saying something stupid. The World Cup is expected to generate $21bn in revenue, according to CNN.

Now that the Bokke have become the Umkhonto we Siswe of the SARU, its armbanded wing if you will, I'm hoping we'll see a lot more incisive political action from the boys covered in greenbacks and gold.

Chris Roper blogs at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRoperZA.

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Read more on:    irb  |  saru  |  pieter de villiers  |  bakkies botha

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