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Sun 6 Oct 2019 | 03:13

Springboks a united team supported by a divided nation

Springboks a united team supported by a divided nation
Sun 6 Oct 2019 | 03:13
Springboks a united team supported by a divided nation
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WORLD CUP REACTION: South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus insisted he would never tolerate racism within his squad after a clip on social media appeared to show Springbok Makazole Mapimpi frozen out by white teammates.

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Erasmus said those who rushed to condemn his side on Twitter had misunderstood a “standing joke” within the squad that saw the starting XV and matchday replacements split into different groups.

The clip was posted after the Springboks’ 49-3 World Cup thrashing of Italy in Shizuoka on Friday, with Mapimpi, who started against the Azzurri, walking away from a group of white replacement players.

But Mapimpi himself insisted he was doing so because he was not a member of “the bomb squad”, the name given to South Africa’s matchday replacements at this tournament, with the wing saying: “There is nothing wrong. We are one.”

Erasmus addressed the issue Sunday after naming his side to play Canada in South Africa’s final Pool B match, saying he was bothered by some people’s “negative” interpretation of the clip.

“Everybody who has been part of a touring side or a Springbok side knows that in a squad of 31, there are guys who make the [matchday] 23 and the eight guys outside the 23 are called the ‘dirt-trackers’,” Erasmus explained.

“Then you get the starting XV and then you get the reserves.

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He said the reserves had been dubbed “the bomb squad” because they either have to fix things on the pitch or “it’s a false alarm and they are not even going onto the park.”

“It’s a kind of standing joke in the team,” said the coach.

Erasmus said it was “so sad” the clip had been misinterpreted and stressed: “I would not as a head coach allow anything like that in the team.”

Rugby Union in South Africa has traditionally been a sport of the white Afrikaner community and making the game more representative has been a thorny issue in the post-apartheid era.

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The Springboks have seen legal action launched against lock Eben Etzebeth over allegations of racial abuse and assault, which he denies.

Erasmus said he had a “really united” and “close-knit” squad, with players of “different languages and cultures.”

“We are really representing a country that has a lot of problems but I think this team is representing this country with a lot of pride,” said Erasmus.

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Springboks a united team supported by a divided nation | Rugby365