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Springbok star Etzebeth denies allegations of gun assault1 min read

Reacting to social media allegations of the incident, Etzebeth said they were “completely untrue”

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Springbok star Etzebeth denies allegations of gun assault
South Africa's lock Eben Etzebeth is tackled by England's flanker Brad Shields during the international rugby union test match between England and South Africa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Springboks lock, Eben Etzebeth has denied assaulting or pointing a gun at a homeless man on the eve of the Monday afternoon announcement of the Rugby World Cup squad.

A first choice in the South African national team for much of this decade, Etzebeth is considered a certainty to be among the 31 players who will be picked for the global showpiece in Japan next month.

Reacting to social media allegations of an incident in Langebaan, 135 kilometres north of Cape Town, Etzebeth said they were “completely untrue”.

“It is completely untrue and unfounded to claim that I physically or racially abused anyone in Langebaan as has been reported on social media,” he told the South African media.

“Multiple witnesses can corroborate that. I am and will always strive to be a true ambassador to this beautiful rainbow nation and the sport that I love.”

A statement from national body South African Rugby said “we have spoken to Eben and he categorically denies any physical or racial abuse on his part as has been alleged in social media.”

“(SA Rugby) has no tolerance for acts of violence or racial abuse. We will co-operate with the authorities in any way necessary. Our Rugby World Cup squad will have no place for anyone who transgresses those principles.”

Etzebeth is leaving Cape Town-based Super Rugby team the Western Stormers after the September 20-November 2 World Cup to join French Top 14 outfit Toulon.

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Springboks celebrate World Cup victory at legendary Mandela site

The Springboks’ final stop on their victory tour pounded home the message of unity in a country still nursing the wounds of apartheid

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South Africa’s rugby stars on Monday hoisted the World Cup before thousands of ecstatic fans at Cape Town’s City Hall, where Nelson Mandela made his first speech after his release from prison.

The Springboks’ final stop on their victory tour pounded home the message of unity in a country still nursing the wounds of apartheid a quarter-century after its end.

“Look how we are all different, different races, different backgrounds, and we came together for South and we made it happen,” Siya Kolisi, the Springboks’ first black Test captain, told thousands of fans.

“I’m saying to you today, just take a look around you, there is different races, different people with different backgrounds, but look how you are making it special for us.”

“It’s time for us South Africans to stop fighting, to stop arguing… and move forward as a country,” he said, to wild applause from fans in the vast square. 

It was in that same square in front of City Hall on February 11, 1990, that Nelson Mandela spoke to euphoric crowds hours after his release from 27 years in prison.

That was Mandela’s first major speech as a free man and a key moment in South Africa’s rebirth as white-minority rule crumbled.

The Springboks beat England 32-12 victory against England in Japan on November 2, earning their third world crown in rugby’s paramount tournament.

But this team broke new ground, being the most racially-mixed in a national sport which was once the preserve of the white elite.

‘Reach for the stars’

Earlier Monday, the Springboks visited anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who sported a green Springbok jersey.

“What this group of youngsters has achieved speaks, beyond rugby, to the possibility of what we can be. No matter where we come from, if we reach for the stars, we can actually touch them,” said Tutu in a statement.

Dwarfed by most of the squad, Tutu appeared particularly impressed by Trevor Nyakane and Tendai Mtawarira’s size — while scrum-half Faf de Klerk gave the archbishop a glimpse of his “famously patriotic underwear he revealed to Prince Harry after winning the cup” eight days earlier, said the statement.

The Springbok also met lawmakers outside the parliament building.

The speaker of the legislature, Thandi Modise, told the triumphant squad: “You have enabled South Africa to recall who we are”.

“You have again made us able to forget our racial tensions, to forget the gender-based violence and to focus on that which makes us great as South Africa.”

She urged them to “continue to unite this country.”

“If politics fails, our fallback is sports, because there… we understand the rules of the game, we understand who and what makes us a people,” Modise said

In a brief response to the members of parliament building, Kolisi said “we hope that we make you proud and we hope that we have inspired you”.

Team members wore yellow T-shirts with inscription “stronger together”. 

Three decades ago, the Springboks were widely viewed as a pawn or a symbol of the white-minority apartheid regime.

Their victorious homecoming tour, aboard an open-topped bus has taken them to Soweto, a township near Johannesburg where they were once reviled, and to the seat of government in Pretoria where they met President Cyril Ramaphosa.

They also took the trophy to Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth, Kolisi’s home town.

Throughout the tour, thousands of South Africans, from all backgrounds, have come out to cheer the national team.

WATCH: Springboks Victory Parade and Siya Kolisi’s ‘Unity Speech’

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Court in Nigeria drops corruption case against FA boss, 4 others

The football bosses had been facing a raft of accusations including over the alleged theft of $8.4 million paid by FIFA

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Court in Nigeria drops corruption case against FA bosses

A Nigerian court on Tuesday dropped a high-profile corruption case against football federation President Amaju Pinnick and four top officials after the authorities withdrew the charges. 

The football bosses had been facing a raft of accusations including over the alleged theft of $8.4 million paid by FIFA for Nigeria’s participation at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Judge Ijeoma Ojukwu said she had “no choice” but to order the case ditched after the prosecution asked to drop some of the charges. 

READ: Anti-graft agency seizes NFF chiefs’ properties in Nigeria

The government in September dissolved the anti-corruption agency prosecuting the case over its own graft scandal.

The case had been repeatedly adjourned since the football officials were charged in May as they failed to answer summons to appear in court. 

The ruling on Tuesday is not the end of Pinnick’s troubles as he is facing another potential trial for graft. 

Last month, the authorities seized a dozen properties from senior officials of Nigeria’s top football body, including Pinnick, in a fresh corruption probe.

READ: Nigerian court orders arrest of four embattled FA officials

Anti-graft agents took over 12 properties — half belonging to Pinnick, including a property in London — in the latest investigation to target senior football bosses.

Pinnick has remained at the helm of Nigeria’s football governing body despite the graft allegations.

He was sacked as Vice-President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in July.

READ: Nigeria FA officials charged with corruption

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Southern Africa

Siya Kolisi: Trying For Greatness

The captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.

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Siya Kolisi, captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.

“Some people stop me in the street and others just come to the house to congratulate us on his achievement,” he said.

“It is unbelievable. The phone has also been ringing non-stop.”

Those were the words of Fezakele Kolisi after his son was appointed as the 61st captain of South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks. The captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal. Countless newspaper columns and hours of airtime are usually devoted to the role and the person holding the position.

If it is vacant, even more, media space is involved in discussing the implications of the vacancy and the possible candidates and eventually, the subsequent recipient. Take everything just described and multiply it by a million. The answer will give you a small insight into just how important the captaincy of the Springboks is to the people of South Africa. And how significant Siya Kolisi has become.

The story of South Africa is one which is well known throughout the world. A rich, beautiful, strategically located land with a proud African heritage. A nation whose land was stolen from its native peoples, who were subsequently enslaved and brutally worked to provide wealth and power for Dutch and British colonisers.

Siya Kolisi, captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.
South Africa’s flanker Siya Kolisi (L) and South Africa’s fly-half Handre Pollard take part in a training session at Arcs Urayasu Park in Urayasu on October 30, 2019, ahead of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

These colonial masters created an abominable political and social system called apartheid. It was a policy that governed relations between the country’s white minority and nonwhite majority and sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhites. It had existed for centuries but was formally started and enforced in 1948 after the National Party gained power.

Under apartheid, the sport was also divided along racial lines. In a South African society, rugby was long considered a white sport, soccer a black one. And like most other institutions in South Africa, the South African rugby bodies followed suit. There was:

  • The South African Rugby Board (SARB) for whites only
  • The South African Rugby Federation (SARF) for “coloureds” i.e. people considered to be of mixed race.
  • The South African Rugby Association (SARA) (originally the South African African Rugby Board) for blacks. There was also the South African Rugby Union (SARU), which was a non-racial body, with a considerable membership. However, only the SARB had any say in international tours, and they alone chose the national team.
Siya Kolisi, captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.
South Africa’s flanker Siya Kolisi takes part in a training session at Arcs Urayasu Park in Urayasu on October 30, 2019, ahead of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

For over a century, the Springboks, as the national team of South Africa were known, were regarded as a symbol of white oppression of the native peoples of South Africa and a shining banner of the Apartheid policy. From 1891 when the first international was played, till 1995, the team did not have a single black player.

The world turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the racial discrimination in South Africa until 1976, when the Soweto riots attracted international condemnation and 28 countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest, and the next year, in 1977, the Commonwealth signed the Gleneagles Agreement, which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa.

In response to the growing pressure, the segregated South African rugby unions merged in 1977. Four years later Errol Tobias would become the first non-white South African to represent his country when he took the field against Ireland. A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was stopped by the French government, who announced that it was inappropriate for South African teams to tour France.

From 1990 to 1991 the legal apparatus of apartheid was abolished, and the Springboks were readmitted to international rugby in 1992. But things really began to look up after the country was awarded the hosting rights for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and there was a remarkable surge of support for the Springboks among the white and black communities in the lead-up to the tournament.

The black people of South Africa really got behind the team winger Chester Williams was selected for the Springboks, the only non-white person on the entire team. Nicknamed “The Black Pearl”, Williams was selected in the initial squad but had to withdraw before the tournament began due to injury. He was later called back into the squad after another player was suspended for a brawl and played in the quarter-final, scoring four tries. He also featured in the semi-final win over France as well as in the final against New Zealand.

Siya Kolisi, captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.

Nelson Mandela, who had taken office as South Africa’s first democratically elected president a year earlier, had embraced the Springboks — long a symbol of repression to most nonwhites — signalling that there was a place for white South Africans in the new order.

Wearing a Springboks jersey and cap, Mandela visited the players in the locker room before they took the field in the final where they defeated the All Blacks 15-12. The image of Madiba lifting the trophy with Francois Pienaar, the team’s Afrikaaner captain, at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium was a poignant one. But one that masked some still-festering racial sores in the country’s rugby fraternity.

Instead of the victory accelerating racial integration in the Springboks, things stagnated. Twelve years later when the team won their second World Cup, there were only two black players. But today, things are much different. In the starting XV that beat Wales in the semi-final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, there were six black players: wingers S’busiso Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi, centre Lukhanyo Am, prop Tendai Mtawarira, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, and captain Siya Kolisi. Of Rassie Erasmus’s squad of 31, 11 are black.

Kolisi represents a poignant bridge between the dark past and the brighter future of South Africa. Born on June 16 1991, one day before the repeal of apartheid, Kolisi has overcome a humble background in the poor township of Zwide, just outside Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, where he was brought up by his grandmother, who cleaned kitchens to make ends meet. At the age of 12, he impressed scouts at a youth tournament in Mossel Bay and was offered a scholarship at Grey Junior in Port Elizabeth. He was subsequently offered a rugby scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School. But tragedy struck when he was 15 when his mother died and his grandmother shortly afterwards.

He made his Springbok debut on 15 June 2013 against Scotland at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit becoming the 851st player in the history of the team. He replaced the injured Arno Botha in the 5th minute and was named as Man of the Match as his side won 30–17. 9 further substitute appearances followed during the 2013 international season as he firmly established himself as a regular member of the national squad.

Kolisi played two matches in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, against Japan and Samoa. He was selected as the new captain of the Springboks on 28 May 2018, becoming the team’s first black captain in its 127-year history. Bryan Habana, former Springbok and of mixed race, praised Kolisi’s appointment saying “It’s a monumental moment for South African rugby and a moment in South African history.” His appointment has been well received by all his teammates. Both white and black alike.

But despite everything he has achieved, Kolisi is still said to be very humble and grounded. “His story is unique,” Hanyani Shimange, former Springboks prop, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

“Previous generations of black rugby players were not given the same opportunities, purely because of South Africa’s laws. He’s living the dream of people who weren’t given the same opportunities as him.

“He’s grabbed those opportunities. He’s a good man, a humble individual.

“He’s got a lot of time for people, probably too much time in some instances. But he’s the same Siya he was six years ago. He loves rugby, and the team loves him.”

Siya Kolisi, captaincy of sports teams all over the world is a big issue and a big deal.
South Africa’s flanker Siya Kolisi (L) and South Africa’s prop Frans Malherbe take part in a training session at Arcs Urayasu Park in Urayasu on October 30, 2019, ahead of their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Chester Williams died in September 2019 and his image was on the shirts the Springboks team wore for their 2019 World Cup opener against the All Blacks. This weekend, Kolisi will not need any reminding how much of a monumental occasion the World Cup final against England represents. His father Fezakele Kolisi will be in the crowd alongside 75,000 other fans. It will be the 50-year-old’s first trip outside South Africa and it could not come at a better time. Also in the crowd will be Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, who also grasps the significance of the occasion.

He has the chance to join Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki as the third president of The Rainbow Nation to lift the trophy. But this time is remarkably different. His predecessors were handed the iconic Webb Ellis Cup by Afrikaaners. If South Africa wins, the records will forever show that it was two black men who lifted the trophy together. One born just as apartheid died. And the other who fought alongside other heroes to end the apartheid abomination.

Kolisi stands on the brink of history. He has the chance to go where no black man in history has gone before. But he will not go alone. Not only will ten other black men go with him, not only will his entire thirty-one man team follow him, not only does he have his nation behind him, but the whole of Africa will also spur him on.

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