volcana, i hope you don't mind but i've deleted my thread from this morning and pasted the information onto your thread.
Geo Cronje, in helmet, tackled Quinton Davids in a provinicial league rugby match earlier this year. Mr. Cronje refused to share a room with Mr. Davids during training camp for the South African national team last month
Geo Cronje, left, has refused to give his reasons for his snub of Quinton Davids. South Africa's rugby union has put off an inquiry into the affair.
A Mean Scrum on Playing Fields of South Africa
By MICHAEL WINES
JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 11 In the context of a land in which murder, torture and oppression were not so long ago the benchmarks of race relations, what Geo Cronje did on Aug. 22 might seem boorish and stupid, but not the stuff of national angst.
In a nutshell, Mr. Cronje, a white, 23-year-old forward for the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls, refused to share a dormitory room with a black rugby player, Quinton Davids, during tryouts for South Africa's national team, the Springboks. The next day, after his coaches put him and the black player through a grueling physical regimen as punishment, he changed his mind.
While no one has disputed what happened, there is great angst here about why. For three weeks running, Mr. Cronje has been a Page 1 staple, the center of a whirlwind that has provoked a national inquiry into racism in rugby programs from professional sports to elementary-school teams, charges of cover-up and demands for the resignation of the Springboks coach.
On Wednesday, after weeks of ham-handed efforts to contain the firestorm, the coach, Rudolf Straeuli, apologized for failing to fully address the incident at its start. In turn, the privately run South African Rugby Football Union, known by its acronym Sarfu, abruptly postponed its inquiry until after next month's World Cup.
But that has not quelled the notion that the Cronje affair is a test of what South Africans of both races call "the transformation" the decade-long, takeover of a minority white-dominated society by its native black majority. Late Wednesday, the black members of Sarfu's inquiry panel quit, saying they suspected the whole flap is being deftly shoved under the Astroturf.
Others say that seems unlikely, and by now, maybe impossible.
"This wound should not be given time to heal," Liam Del Carme, a black journalist who covered rugby for The Johannesburg Star before leaving to start a new paper, said in an interview this week. "The investigation should be done in a proper way. But I think they came to the realization that it's probably best to delay it and give the guys the opportunity to focus on the World Cup."
In the end, neither man made the team. Mr. Cronje and other principals have been silent all along, and remained so today. Mr. Cronje's most adamant defender has been his father, who told reporters that his son was not raised to be prejudiced.
Since the allegations surfaced last month, no one has said whether Mr. Cronje rejected his roommate out of prejudice or some other motive personal dislike, say, or rivalry for a spot on the Springboks team.
It almost does not matter here. In fact, some of South Africa's grandest displays of unity have sprung from the rugby pitch. But no one disputes the fact that rugby somehow pushes South Africa's racial buttons in a way black-dominated soccer and white-dominated cricket fail to do.
Certainly, neither soccer nor cricket is as freighted with the cultural and historical baggage that rugby lugs to every South African match.
The rugby authority hauled Nelson Mandela, South Africa's president, into court when he dared in 1998 to investigate the sport's racial record. A World Cup coach was forced to resign in 1997 after using racial slurs to describe black rugby administrators. In 1996, the Springboks caused a scandal by fielding a white player convicted of manslaughter for killing a black farm worker.
The issue is not that rugby is an antiblack game. Rugby has been popular among blacks in the Capetown area and along the southeast Indian Ocean coast for decades.
Rather, it may be that the most zealous rugby fans are Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch settlers who became synonymous with apartheid and its cruelties. Since the end of white minority rule, Afrikaners have embraced rugby as a symbol of cultural pride and lost glory. Even the national team's mascot, the Springbok antelope, was once an apartheid symbol.
Rugby's latest travails are only heightened because Mr. Cronje fits the physical stereotype of a redneck Afrikaner. Beefy and bushy-bearded, he comes from Limpopo Province, the northern stronghold of lingering apartheid sympathy.
Whatever his views on race, "give him a slouch hat, a rifle and a couple of bandoliers and he would pass as a Boer commando," the British newspaper The Guardian wrote last month.
The unconfirmed but mostly unchallenged news reports say that Mr. Cronje was competing head-to-head with Mr. Davids, a 25-year-old player for the Stormers, for a spot on the Springboks. After a Friday practice at a Pretoria University field, Mr. Cronje refused to share either a dormitory room or a bathroom with Mr. Davids, and bunked instead with another Blue Bulls player for the night.
Reports stated that Mr. Straeuli, the coach, made both men run 140 times up a steep embankment as punishment, exhausting Mr. Davids to the point of collapse. Black players at the tryouts were said to be outraged, and word of Mr. Cronje's refusal to share a room with Mr. Davids leaked to the press.
Both the Springboks and Sarfu have tried to calm the ensuing controversy, first clearing Mr. Cronje, then opening an independent inquiry into the affair and the state of race in all South African rugby.
Mr. Straeuli's apology and Sarfu's decision to delay the inquiry until after the World Cup angered critics still more. In addition to the resignations by black members of the inquiry board, the Springboks press official also resigned and issued a broadside charging that the management systematically ignored racism on the team.
Rugby's latest embarrassment is all the more curious because of the sport's starring role at key moments in the march toward majority rule.
In 1976, four white sons of a Port Elizabeth merchant made history and earned the white minority government's enmity by playing rugby with blacks, a major break in the apartheid wall. In 1995, a year after the end of apartheid, the Springboks won the World Cup, and Mr. Mandela donned a jersey bearing the Springbok emblem to show that blacks, too, could embrace a white symbol of South African achievement.
Only last year, the government itself had allowed an end to quotas of black players for each team, implicitly stating that rugby was becoming a colorblind sport in South Africa.
Yet, Sarfu, the rugby governing body now under fire, is headed by black executives, a point that Valence Watson, one of the four brothers who broke rugby's color barrier in 1976, noted in a telephone interview this week.
"The white fellow accused of racism has been defended by many people, some of them black," he said. "And the so-called colored fellow involved in this incident was defended by many, including whites. That shows there's a distinct blurring of the racial lines here."
Steven Laufer, a white business consultant here, recalled attending a rugby game against Australia some two years ago in which a white couple in the next row cheered on the Springboks, especially the efforts of a young black wing who had nearly scored several goals.
The whole conversation was in English. But as the game ended, Mr. Laufer said, the woman turned to her partner and suddenly began speaking in what was obviously their native language, Afrikaans.
"Who would have thought 10 years ago," she said, "that we could love a black boy as much as this?"