Super Rugby

Will players take a knee when South African rugby restarts?

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Siya Kolisi (Gallo)
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)

South African rugby resumes on Saturday with 12 Springbok World Cup winners on show in an empty stadium, where much of the media focus will be on what occurs before the two matches.

World Cup captain Siya Kolisi was non-committal on Friday about whether he would take a knee in Pretoria to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that seeks racial justice.

"There are many things that people can do to show support (for BLM)," said the loose forward who two years ago became the first black to skipper South Africa in a Test.

"We (the players) are not going to judge each other. I expect my team-mates to respect my decision and I will respect what they do.

"If you ask me tomorrow (Saturday) what I did, I will answer. Each of my team-mates can explain their actions."

The failure of eight South Africans to take a knee before a recent English Premiership match in London angered South African Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Eleven of the 15 Sale Sharks starters remained standing before playing the Harlequins, including Springbok World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager.

"They wore T-shirts supporting BLM but did not kneel so I interacted with SA Rugby and asked president Mark Alexander to explain what is happening," said Mthethwa.

"Racist behaviour cannot be tolerated and the SA Rugby president said there will be a meeting after which they will make their views known."

The national rugby body has yet to publicly react to the actions of the South Africans, six of whom are contenders for Springbok places should they go to the Rugby Championship.

Only 174 in stadium

Kolisi leads the Stormers against the Lions in the second match of a Pretoria double-header that marks the resumption of a sport suspended in March owing to the coronavirus.

Earlier, the Bulls face the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld stadium as the four South African Super Rugby teams warm up for two domestic competitions from 10 October.

The Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers will be joined by the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas in a Super Rugby Unlocked tournament until 21 November, followed by the Currie Cup.

Only 174 people will be allowed inside the 50 000-capacity stadium and the Bulls and Sharks teams must leave the ground before the Lions and Stormers can enter.

"Security at Loftus will resemble Fort Knox," a Bulls official told AFP, referring to the American military installation that houses much of the national gold reserves.

"Only players, coaches, medical personnel and stadium staff will be permitted entry and there are separate sterilised changerooms for each team.

"When the matches finish, the players will walk to the changerooms, swap boots for footwear, take their kit bags and leave."

SA Rugby medical manager Clint Readhead hopes months of preparations for the return of rugby will pay off.

"Many people have worked extremely hard for us to reach this point where we are poised to get rugby up and running. I believe we have done everything possible to mitigate the risks."

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