- 1995's World Cup-winning Springbok squad is used to engaging in difficult debates, but remain a "unified" group in light of the drama caused by captain Francois Pienaar's support for Black Lives Matter last month.
- Hennie le Roux, former utility back and the group's spokesperson, said that opinions are encouraged with the necessary "respect".
- The former players are also still aware of the significance of their achievement in terms of promoting wider reconciliation.
"Rigorous debate" remains one of the key pillars of 1995's Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok squad's DNA despite the fallout from Francois Pienaar's support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) during last month's Solidarity Cup.
Multiple reports this past weekend chronicled the 53-year-old former flanker taking a knee before the match, which introduced the world to the new 3 Team Cricket (3TC) format, and how it had a divisive impact among his former team-mates.
It's understood that some felt Pienaar's gesture meant he was automatically associating them with the global movement and allegedly led to a war of words.
Former lock Kobus Wiese, for one, has previously argued in favour of the "All Lives Matter" stance and expressed concerns that BLM, unwittingly or not, could compound racial tensions.
Pienaar, who is the chief executive of 3TC, eventually left the squad's WhatsApp group along with several others including flyhalf Joel Stransky, team manager Morne du Plessis and former Saru CEO Edward Griffiths.
But Hennie le Roux, 1995's inside centre and designated spokesperson for the group, insists the men won't become alienated.
"We remain a tight and unified team," he reiterated in a statement to Sport24.
"[T]his, while opinions are encouraged and may differ from time to time."
According to Le Roux, the group of former Springboks are used to engaging with subject material that leads to differences of opinion.
"The team character is to engage in rigorous debate but at all times remains respectful and intact," he said.
"The country and all its people are under significant pressure and facing enormous challenges."
Pienaar told Rapport that his departure from the group isn't unprecedented as various other members have done so too in the past, only to return after a "cooling down" period.
Despite the emotive nature of the issue, the group remains committed to harnessing the significance of their achievement for the greater good of the country.
"Our prime interest is and will always remain, to keep the country united and in the process, stand firm and discourage any form of divisive behaviour," said Le Roux.
"The Rainbow Nation Matters."