Education key as Stormers tackle 'racism'
WATCH as Stormers coach John Dobson reveals his team’s approach to tackling the vexed issue of racism.
There has been no directive, or indication, from SA Rugby as to what they would expect the teams to do in the wake of the ‘Against Racism’ movement that swept the return to play in Europe.
It caused a major stir when the Premiership allowed clubs and players to decide individually what action they wanted to take in support of their ‘Against Racism’ campaign.
It even reverberated in South Africa when the minister of sport Nkosinathi Mthethwa asked for an ‘explanation’ when some of Sale Sharks’ SA players opted to stand instead of ‘taking a knee’.
The fall-out had massive undertones of the controversial Black Live Matter movement.
The Stormers are determined to avoid a similar controversy and according to coach John Dobson “educate and understand” are the keys to avoid those pitfalls.
Dobson said he has no idea what type of ‘directive’ might come from SA Rugby, as to what action should be taken.
However, the Stormers, as a tight-knit unit, decided some time the issues around racism is something they wanted to address.
“We are an amazingly diverse, unified and cheerful group,” Dobson told a virtual media briefing on Thursday.
“It is not just about colour,” he said, adding: “Diversity comes in many different forms and this diversity thing is something we are really proud of.”
He said they went really, really hard on education and understanding.
“Whatever directive [from SA Rugby] comes our way, we have [already] started a series of talks – both internally and with outside facilitators – to increase education and understanding.
“At least this team will stay together, no matter what happens.
“They will understand in somebody takes a contrarian view. At least I will understand why a guy next to me is on a knee, or the guy next to me is standing.”
He admitted it will always be tough to reach consensus on such a controversial subject.
“We will certainly do our best [to reach consensus].
“We have had a series of talks and we will continue next week and beyond.
“What is clear to us as a group, is this is an opportunity, not a threat, to continue the conversation to reach a greater level of understanding.
“The right thing for this group is to have a greater level of education and understanding of everybody’s viewpoint.”
He said this process will continue throughout the season.
“The Springbok skipper [Siya Kolisi] has been absolutely magic in this regard, and has said to team: ‘No matter how it goes in these sessions, I’m not going to judge, but I just want to be able to understand you’.”
He said a directive from SA Rugby would be preferable.
“Aesthetically, I would say, a directive may be fairer on the players.
“However, we don’t want a situation of what happened at Sale. The last thing we want to do is force someone on to their feet or on to their knees.
“Let’s say we get a directive, and if a player feels strongly one way or another, he would expose himself if he broke that directive. If he does, I want his teammates to understand – not necessary agree – but understand it.”
He said for them it is all about understanding.
“If it’s left down to players, it will be fine as long as there’s a level of understanding. And our approach is just to educate and understand.”