User:Amy.e.cotton/The Race in South African Sport

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South Africa has faced much struggle in the past 60 years in regards to racial political issues. Since the introduction of Apartheid, and the subsequent abolishment of Apartheid, the nation has experienced a lot of hurdles in their development. South Africa is a nation that is inseparable from its sport, and it is these sporting bodies, through their own transformation, which have in turn helped South Africa evolve as a nation. In particular, Rugby Union, Netball, Football and Cricket have each shown dramatic transformations in their attempts to become racially equal sports. In South Africa’s revolution, they made attempts on a number of ways to reach an equal status. One of these was the introduction of racial quotas, which brought about a lot of controversy, as it was seen as undermining the basic fundamentals of sport. South Africa’s transformation has been specifically aided through sports and their hosting of major events. This has been a way of South Africa demonstrating to the world how they are now unified as a ‘rainbow nation’. This essay will show how sport has transformed in the post-apartheid era, and how this has in turn assisted South Africa in developing.



For decades now, South Africa has faced a struggle between sport and racial political issues, impacting both South African sport and the nation as a whole. Apartheid was introduced in 1948, with the effect of extending and institutionalising existing racial segregation, and was only abolished in 1991. Apartheid had the affect of restricting inter-racial sport and thus politicising sport in South Africa (Bolsmann & Parker, p. 6, 2007). Since the abolishment, a revolution and transformation has resulted in sport in South Africa, with particular significance to Rugby Union, Netball, Football and Cricket. This discussion will include how these sports were initially impacted by Apartheid, what effect and changes this had on the sport, and finally how the sport is now dealing with the lasting ramifications of the issue. Consequently, sport has further influenced a change in South Africa and has been used as a tool for growth and unification in the country.

The effect on these sports at a political and business level will also be explored, including a discussion of the Quota System established by the Government, and the controversial issues surrounding it. This essay will convey the interrelationship between sport, business and politics in relation to South Africa’s attempt to become racially equal within sport.

History of Apartheid in South Africa Concerning Sport[edit]

Nelson Mandela-2008 (edit)

As part of the successful Afrikaner National Party slogan in the 1948 election, Apartheid was introduced. Apartheid brought about a number of changes to sport in South Africa and to the nation as a whole. In the early years of Apartheid, international criticism of the system grew. The national Rugby Union team, the Springboks, became increasingly isolated from society as they were seen as representatives of Apartheid. As unrest escalated in the 1970s, the Commonwealth signed the Gleneagles Agreement, which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa. Moreover, South Africa were also absent from the Olympic Games for 30 years. Apartheid was officially abolished in 1991 when South Africa’s Parliament voted to overturn the legal framework, and a transformation began to occur. Nelson Mandela was significantly elected as President of South Africa in 1994.

The Quota System[edit]

In order for South Africa to move forward in the post-Apartheid era, a new policy was needed to unify their sports structure. A quota system was introduced to South African sport as a way of combating racial inequality, whereby sporting teams were required to include a minimum number of black or white people in their team. Furthermore, sporting bodies were required to provide racial demographic data of their sport in order to received national funding. These quotas were not always strictly followed and it brought about a number of contentious issues in sport, including whether it is fair to base selections on race and whether quotas undermine the basic fundamentals of sport. This Quota System was a quick-fix solution for a major issue at the time and has subsequently been rejected by the South African Government in recent times. Mr Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Sport and Recreation, stated: ‘the Quota System is both undesirable and a blunt tool that we believe will not bring about meaningful development and transformation in sport as envisaged’. Below are a number of examples of the application of the Quota System within South African sports. Rugby Union applied the Quota System in the early 2000s through the Super 12 Rugby competition. South African teams were required to have a minimum of two black players in their team, as this sport has been white-dominated [1]. Netball’s racial quotas impacted a broad group including a number of different levels and ages. In 1995, provincial teams in the under-19 age division were required to have at least 40% representation of ‘blacks’ or ‘whites’ on their roster, with at least two players of each race on the court at all times. If they failed to do so, this would result in a loss of tournament points. In 2000, these restrictions were then enforced at the highest level of competition in South Africa. The South African Cricket Board decided to introduce quotas in 1993, to be reached by 2003 with the objective of achieving equal representation (Vahed, 2001). These figures included that there should be 50 per cent black membership on selection panels, and the appointment of black journalists, scorers, groundsmen, umpires and coaches. These quotas also stipulated that 44 of the 121 players in provincial areas must be ‘players of colour’ and they would receive cash incentives as a result.

Rugby Union[edit]

South Africa vs Fiji 2011 RWC (5)

Rugby Union within South Africa has transformed as a sport due to the impact of Apartheid. Rugby Union was introduced to South Africa by British colonists in 1875, and was embraced by coloured and black populations from an early stage. However, in the 1900s, the sport was predominantly seen as one for white people. As a result, the Springboks, became a symbol of Apartheid for a number of decades. The struggle for national competition ultimately resulted in the defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement, when the Springboks decided to continue their tour of New Zealand in 1981. Consequently, the International Rugby Board banned South Africa from international competition, until Apartheid would end. Once Apartheid was abolished, South Africa returned to the international sporting stage. The transformation of Rugby also brought about a transformation in the nation. The sport became a representation of the start of the new beginning for South Africa when it hosted the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup. Not only were South Africa victorious, but the World Cup was also significant in showing the world how they had moved on. Recently elected President Nelson Mandela decided to wear a Springboks jersey, which became a powerful symbol in history of the white acceptance of the new order and unity within the nation. Furthermore, in 2007, the International Rugby Board honoured Nelson Mandela. He was presented with a crystal rugby ball, with the inscription: “For what you have done during the 1995 World Cup to unite your nation under the banner of rugby” (Walt, 2007). This is a clear indication of the link between Rugby Union and politics within South Africa and how sport was used to further build the nation.


Netball is South Africa’s most popular female sport, and is predominantly played by white women. This sport has undergone a major transformation in the post-apartheid era, in an attempt to become racially equal. Netball has faced not only a racial struggle, but also a gender inequality struggle, as it is a women’s dominated sport and therefore does not receive as much recognition in comparison with male sports. During Apartheid, Netball was immediately impacted by the international sports boycott on South Africa, with no international competition taking place. Netball attempted to spread their sport to a broader audience, however the sport was ultimately segregated between Africans, Whites, Coloureds and Asians. The sport suffered as a result, with certain groups becoming more disadvantaged in regards to resources, and the ultimate availability of the sport (Pelak, 2005). Eventually, in 1994, a racially inclusive national governing body was formed; Netball South Africa (NSA). Netball continued to struggle however, with a number of reformations in the Board due to racial protests, demonstrating just how far they have come. As Nkosi, a high level administrator at the South African Sports Commission, stated: ‘They have become more sensitive and more innovative in dealing with [racial] transformation than other sports’ (Pelak, 2005). Powerful symbols such as the appointment of an African president of NSA and also the inclusion of black players on the national team is evidence of this transformation Netball has taken pre-apartheid and post-apartheid. Furthermore, Netball has attempted to reduce the segregation between different classes of females in South Africa with the integration of teams and races in various competitions and leagues. Netball has attempted to forge a change in post-apartheid South Africa, through a unified identity, structural changes, affirmative action policies and everyday interactions between players and administration (Pelak, 2005). Netball in South Africa has managed to redefine racial boundaries and shift their image from a ‘White sport’, to a ‘racially diverse sport’ (Pelak, 2005). Netball South Africa are however, aware that their work is not finished, evidenced through their aim to break down economic barriers, thus demonstrating their continuing transformation as a sport in the post-apartheid era.


Watching South Africa & Mexico match at World Cup 2010-06-11 in Soweto 7

Football in South Africa has long been held as inseparable from the struggle against Apartheid. This began in the 1960s when primarily black prisoners fought for their right to play Soccer on Robben Island. They organised a competition, adhering to FIFA regulations, and thus promoting the sport for equality. It was the rules of Soccer, based on ‘meritocracy, equality and self-determination’ (Perry, 2010) that empowered these people to use Football as a statement of racial quality. South African Football has also influenced the nation in the post-apartheid era. This was most predominantly seen when the nation hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which South Africa were hopeful would show the world that the nation has changed and moved on from Apartheid. The planning of this event has helped boost South Africa’s infrastructure, leading to improvements in transportation and security within the nation, an indication of the connection between Football and politics Football has also provided a boost for Africa in terms of health (Perry, 2010). South Africa is one of the most poverty-stricken nations, with high levels of violent crime and a global record of HIV/AIDS. However with these figures constantly improving, South Africa were hopeful that the World Cup could bring about change to the nation on a social level. As Danny Jordaan, head of South Africa’s organising committee stated: “It we can deliver the World Cup, we will have finally dismissed the idea created by apartheid that there are greater and lesser human beings. We will be ready to take our place in the world” (Perry, 2010). The Football World Cup is one example of how changes in sport have then influenced South Africa as a whole.


Australia South Africa slips cordon

Cricket is an example of a sport which is seen from the outside as white-dominated in South Africa, however it is also popular among black people, but is not recognised as highly.

In the post-apartheid era, cricket’s attempt to move towards becoming a racially equal sport was epitomised when the United Cricket Board (now known as Cricket South Africa) made an official founding statement in 1990: “to form one non-racial democratic controlling body” and to “contribute through cricket to a just society in South Africa” (Gemmell, 2007). These statements clearly show how Cricket has made an attempt to also work with South Africa as a nation, to help it grow. Some believe Cricket’s transformation in the post-apartheid era has been minimal, with the sport remaining predominantly white involved (Vahed, 2001). This may be reflected in the ideology that they are set on their position of electing their best eleven for every match, not allowing quotas to influence their national team. On the other hand, some believe that cricket has come a long way as black people have had an influence on the sport, claiming the black players including Makhaya Ntini, were the stars of the 2003 Cricket World Cup (Gemmell, 2007). A demonstration of how Cricket has assisted the nation in also transforming in the post-apartheid era is evident through their hosting of the 2003 Cricket World Cup, in cooperation with other African nations. Furthermore, players and sport were required to contribute, through cricket, to the wider society and assist in reconciliation (Gemmell, 2007). This shows how Cricket has been able to use its position as a sporting body to influence the nation in transforming in the post-apartheid era.


South African sport has shown a dramatic transformation since the introduction of Apartheid in the 1940s. From here, the nation has also transformed, showing how South Africa is inextricably linked to its sports. It has been shown above, that South Africa’s major sports, including Rugby Union, Netball, Football and Cricket, have evolved in the post-apartheid era in attempts to become a racially equal nation. It is evident that the hosting of major sporting events has assisted in this transition, as they attempt to show the world on a large scale, how South Africa has moved on, and is a new nation without Apartheid. These events have assisted this development on a number of levels, including health and infrastructure. South Africa has moved from a time when there was complete racial inequality, to a time when racial quotas were accepted, and now, they could be considered a racially equal nation. This status has evolved mainly in the post-apartheid era, and has been aided by the involvement of sport, in their attempt to unify their nation, South Africa.

Reference List[edit]

[2] Atherton, M, 2007, ‘End in Sight for South Africa’s quota system’, Telegraph, 11 November.

[3] Barnes, S, 2002, ‘South Africa’s quota system no black and white issue’, Times Online, 9 January.

Bolsmann, C, Parker, A, 2007, ‘Soccer, South Africa and Celebrity Status’, Soccer and Society, vol. 8, pp. 109-124.

Cornelissen, S, 2008, ‘Scripting the nation: sport, mega-events, foreign policy and state-buildings in post-apartheid South Africa’, Sport in Society, vol. 11, pp. 481-493.

Gemmel, J, 2007, ‘South African Cricket: ‘The Rainbow Nation Must Have a Rainbow team’, Sport in Society, vol. 10, pp. 49-70.

Hoglund, K, Sundberg, R, 2008, ‘Reconciliation through sports? The case of South Africa’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 29, pp. 805-818.

[4] Keim, M, 2005, ‘Sport as Opportunity for Community Development and Peace Building in South Africa’.

Korr, C, 2010, ‘Reflections on the importance of sport in the struggle to end Apartheid’, Sport in Society, vol. 13, pp. 32-35.

Merrett, C, 2001, ‘The Challenge of Non-Racial Cricket to the Apartheid State of the mid-1970s’, The International Journal of the History of Sport.

Pelak, C, 2005, ‘Athletes as Agents of Change: An Examination of Shifting Race Relations Within Women’s Netball in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, Sociology of Sport Journal, vol. 21, pp. 59-77.

#ixzz1Xic4tv2a Perry, A, 2010, ‘South Africa: Playing the Rebel Game’, Time Magazine, 3 June.

[5] Smith, A, 2001, radio program, ‘Springboks 1971’, The Sports Factor, Radio National, 29 June.

Vahed, g, 2001, ‘Transformation in South African Cricket’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport.

[6] Walt, V, 2007, ‘South African Rugby: No Rainbow’, Time Magazine, 6 September.

Further External Links[edit]

South African Rugby Union

South African Football Association