It’s time to truly be ‘Stronger Together’

During the successful 2019 World Cup campaign, the Springboks championed the catch phrase ‘Stronger Together’. It’s time for the greater South African rugby public to listen, learn and take this to heart, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

As the editor of SA Rugby magazine, I’ll be up front. Part of my job has been to monitor the comments section on our social media channels, and, quite frankly, on certain subject lines it has become a horror show.

In recent times, there has been a powerful drive to highlight inherent and systemic issues that should be acknowledged and opened up for honest discussion.

For one, our Springbok captain Siya Kolisi has used his prime platform to drive meaningful change, and address matters that he has every right to discuss.

Last week, he released a heartfelt message around the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing his story and experiences from a place of authenticity and vulnerability.

WATCH: ‘I’ve felt that my life didn’t matter’ – Kolisi

After sharing this video on our SA Rugby magazine platforms, I honestly cannot believe the vitriol, racism and short-sighted drivel that has been spewed in the comments sections. And, after looking a little closer, I’ve seen these hateful opinions can be found on various other platforms.

What has happened?

Just nine months ago, we appeared to be a country united by the success of a Springbok side that made no secret of the fact they played for their people back home.

Acknowledging the issues in South Africa, the Bok team used this as motivation to provide cause for celebration and unity, while embracing a culture of all-inclusiveness in a ‘family’ environment where differences were welcomed. The Springbok management viewed ‘transforming’ as a verb, an action word.

As a team, the Springboks played their part, and drove all South Africans into a shared celebration of a common cause. We were ‘Stronger Together’. But for how long? How much did we learn from this? Have we lost sight of what was achieved just a few short months ago?

I’ve watched on and sadly, quietly, deleted hateful comment after hateful comment voiced by the SA rugby audience on our social media channels. But it’s time to also use this platform to speak up. Because surely we need to all be better.

When Kolisi shared his story and threw his support behind the BLM movement, this was not to suggest that ONLY ‘Black Lives Matter’. Take a moment to listen, and learn. It’s something that, I for one, am still trying to do.

These stories which are being shared are about generations who have experienced hardships and diminished opportunities that are undeniable, and largely impossible to understand unless you have walked a mile in their shoes.

To pretend or think that prejudices or systemic injustices are just a thing of the past simply smacks of ignorance.

I recently had the privilege of chatting to Dr Wilbur Kraak, the spokesman for a group of rugby players and coaches who have united behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

In particular, one of his messages truly resonated with me. After all, he too had seen some of the comments going around.

‘My plea to the people is to stop listening with the intent to defend yourself,’ he said. ‘Start listening with the intent to understand why we are unhappy, because there is a lot of hurt out there … I think it’s time to have these hard and honest discussions. A lot of education needs to happen about where we’re coming from.’

It’s hard to sum it up any better. Just stop commenting before truly listening, truly learning, truly understanding.

READ: ‘Kolisi has right to tell his own story’

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Craig Lewis