SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux speaks during an online press conference on July 21, 2020 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Lee Warren
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux speaks during an online press conference on July 21, 2020 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Lee Warren

In what can only be seen as the strongest Black Lives Matter (BLM) statement from any of the country’s sporting federations, SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said they will be taking steps to address grievances suffered by black players in the game.  

Speaking during a virtual media conference, Roux said the sport needed to own up to and deal with uncomfortable conversations that have emanated from black players.

Last week, a group of 49 black former rugby players and coaches threw their weight behind Proteas cricketer Lungi Ngidi and the BLM movement.

“In terms of Black Lives Matter specifically and the issues [Black Lives Matter, farm murders, gender-based violence] that are currently on the table, I think we need to own up in terms of those conversations and not steer away from them,” Roux said.

“The first thing we need to do is to let people tell their stories. But more importantly, we have to listen to those stories and hear what they are saying,” Roux said.

“Let people voice what they believe is wrong. We’ve got to listen and we have to believe what they’re saying. We have to continue the dialogue and we have to figure it out together.

“If we have to adapt things to help figure things out, then we have to do that. What we shouldn’t do is to steer away from the uncomfortable conversations and the things people refer to as the awkward truth. Those are the realities of our lives.”

Roux acknowledged that SA rugby has a sordid past with many racial inequalities but said steps were being taken to remedy this.

However, incidents of racial discrimination have taken place and whether they’ve been dealt with accordingly by the various unions has been a topic of hot debate.

One of the current issues plaguing SA rugby in general is the lack of black representation in senior coaching structures. SA’s Super Rugby and Pro14 franchises do not have any black head coaches.

“Maybe some elements we may need to change, especially around the coaches. Rassie Erasmus did present us with a plan around the fast-tracking of black coaches. We’ll look at that plan more seriously and we’ll address the issues that are there,” Roux said.

“We need to provide people with an opportunity to tell their stories, and those stories are beyond coaches,” Roux said.

“We’re the first to acknowledge that things have gone wrong in the past. I also believe we’re the first to have stepped up and shown the intent and  direction we want to take.”

Roux also said challenging existing systems will be an integral part of dealing with systemic and integrated discrimination.

“These are serious matters that transcend way beyond sport and they are part of our daily lives. There are people who are voicing their concerns. We have to take them and listen to what they’re saying and we have to look at where we stand in terms of those concerns.

“Are our players significantly robust enough to address those concerns? If they need to be changed, we’ll go back to our executive and unions and say: ‘Yes, we have agreed on the following. Yes we are happy with what we are doing. Yes we are happy with the progress we’ve made, but we’ve consistently said that we don’t celebrate progress, we acknowledge progress. We’ll celebrate when we have success’.”

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