Former Springbok prop Brian Mujati says he left South Africa because of the quota system.
The Zimbabwean played 12 Tests for the Springboks in 2008 (including just two starts) before joining the Northampton Saints in 2009. He has played 74 matches for the English club and recently signed for Racing Métro, who he will join next season.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Mail, Mujati said he realised he was only being picked for the Boks because he was black.
‘We played against Scotland, Bismarck du Plessis got injured in the first minute and I played the rest of the match,’ he said. ‘We won, then our last Test of the tour was against England. On the Monday, I came down to breakfast and found out they had flown in Jannie du Plessis from South Africa. I thought, “All right, he is here as cover”, but in training Jannie was doing all the drills, then they announced the team and Jannie was starting. I felt really let down.
‘South Africa pick guys because of their race, because they’ve got to have two or three black guys in the squad. It became clear I was one of those selections. I called my agent and said I wanted to leave.’
Mujati also left South Africa because of the controversy surrounding his estranged father’s role in seizing land from white farmers in Zimbabwe.
‘The story broke in South Africa that my father had been involved in land-grabs and was using that to fund my career. A guy whose farm was taken by my father wrote about what happened. He had a son who played rugby.
‘In the week leading up to my first Test for the Springboks, he was saying that there were so many opportunities his son could have had if my father hadn’t taken his farm. I didn’t even know where my father was. I tried to let it blow over, but it escalated. So when I left South Africa I was relieved and thought that everyone would just leave me alone.
‘As time wore on, I realised that there was nothing I could do. I haven’t seen my dad in over a decade, but somehow he was supposed to have been funding me! I have stopped being angry about all that.’
Mujati excelled in England and admitted he wanted to prove the Springbok selectors wrong. He was offered a starting role for the 2011 World Cup, but couldn’t accept it because he didn’t have a South African passport and, despite input from government ministers and Saru’s best efforts, he was denied one.
‘For me, that was the end of the road with the Springboks. Mentally, I had to give up on it. But in a way, knowing that they wanted me back was enough.’
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix