Super Rugby

Black Lives Matter | Kolisi: Players will show respect in their own way

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Siya Kolisi (Gallo)
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)
  • Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says continued education and conversation around Black Lives Matter is important.
  • Kolisi says players at Super Fan Saturday this weekend will show respect in their own way.
  • Kolisi and the Stormers will take on the Lions, while the Bulls host the Sharks.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says each Stormers players will "show respect in the way that they want to" ahead of kickoff against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. 

In what will be the first live televised South African rugby event in six months, Super Fan Saturday will see the Bulls host the Sharks (16:25) and then the Stormers take on the Lions (18:55) in front of an empty stadium in Pretoria. 

But, despite the fact that there will be no fans in attendance, all eyes ahead of kick-off will be on what stance the players opt to take in relation to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that has become a major talking point around the world since American George Floyd was killed on 25 May.

Taking the knee has since become the universal symbol, particularly in sports, of showing support for BLM.

The English Premiership has seen almost all players taking a knee before matches begin while, on 18 July, every player and member of management involved in Cricket South Africa's (CSA) Solidarity Cup took a knee before the first ball of the day was bowled.

CSA has been forced into a period of introspection as a result of BLM, with numerous former players and coaches in South African cricket coming forward with their stories of alleged racism and exclusion. 

Last month, though, a group of South African rugby players - including Springbok World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager - made headlines by opting against taking a knee when playing for their European clubs. 

The South Africans playing abroad who 'stood' that weekend wore T-shirts with the words 'Rugby Against Racism' printed on them, but that they didn't take a knee was enough to draw action out of South African sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, who wanted answers from SA Rugby. 

SA Rugby, meanwhile, has proposed that players continue with their pre-match routines as they normally would at Loftus on Saturday, suggesting that it puts forward a "credo" - at the stadium and through SuperSport's broadcast - emphasising the organisation's united stance against racism and discrimination.  

For Kolisi, the continued conversations around BLM and ensuring an environment of equality within the team environment are more important than any gestures that take place on Saturday. 

The skipper also revealed that Stormers head coach John Dobson had embraced the BLM conversation with the team, even bringing in somebody external to facilitate conversation around the issue. 

"Here in South Africa there are our own things we're going through ... a lot of social issues. We've tried to narrow it down to what's going on here in South Africa," South Africa's 2019 World Cup-winning captain said.

"We pride ourselves on our diversity in the Stormers team. One thing that we all know is different races, different backgrounds. A lot of us decided that we all don't have enough education in what is going on.

"Dobbo (Dobson) offered to get somebody to come in and speak to us ... get us talking and having the conversations around what's going on around our environment and around South Africa.

"That's what we did as a team ... we agreed that we want to have more conversations around this, just internally.

"We know that one session is not enough, and we decided as a team that we want this to be a continuous thing until we get the perfect solution and how we can all be united."

Turning his attention to this weekend, Kolisi made it clear that no players would be judged for any decisions they made  prior to kick-off. 

"Going to Saturday's game, there are so many things that people can do to show their support and we said, as long as we're getting the education and we're learning and growing each week, what someone else does ... that's up to you," he said.

"We're not going to judge each other ... it's all about getting that conversation and with each person, we have to respect what they are doing and the decision they're making and they will answer for it.

"If you ask me what I'm doing, I will answer for it and then the next guy will answer for themselves. That's what we've agreed on.

"We just want equality in our country and equality in the team environment for everyone. We want everybody to be treated the same and we're going to show it on the field.

"I'm going to show it in whatever way I want ... it's either taking a knee, or it's somebody standing up and that's it, we'll come together.

"The most important thing is the conversations. You can stand there or kneel, but you could not be supporting whatever. The important thing is how we're feeling ourselves amongst the team.

"The players. We haven't decided exactly how we're going to do it, but we know there is stuff happening with Vodacom ... they're going to do stuff on game day. We're going to have a couple of seconds where we can do something on the field and each person is going to show respect in the way that they want to."

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