Stormers coach: We’re facilitating understanding, education

Stormers coach John Dobson says the team has engaged in open discussions over topics such as diversity and the BLM movement, and players will be free to choose how they take action, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Discussions around the decision of athletes to take the knee or not before competition has been prevalent across different sporting codes worldwide.

In a rugby context, it particularly came into the spotlight during the opening round of the English Premiership, with the RFU opting not to hand down any directive to clubs.

Prior to competition resuming, representatives from the clubs were said to have discussed how best to show support for the BLM movement and ‘Rugby Against Racism’ campaign, but sides were allowed to come up with differing gestures.

Some opted to take a knee or stand in a circles, while players also wore ‘Rugby Against Racism’ T-shirts.

However, it did lead to a particular backlash in some circles – and certainly in South Africa – when a number of SA players based in England opted not to take a knee, most noticeably at the Sale Sharks with a number of Saffas.

READ: Different responses to ‘Rugby against Racism’ campaign

It’s a subject that remains pertinent, and during a Zoom media conference on Thursday, Dobson explained the approach the Stormers were taking to these sorts of topics.

‘We decided as a group it was something we wanted to address, we’re a tight-knit group from all walks of life. And it’s not just about colour, diversity comes in many different forms and we’re proud of that. But for us, it’s all about education and understanding.

‘We’re not sure what the directive [from SA Rugby] will be, or if there will be any, but we’ve already started a series of talks internally and with facilitators, so that we will stay together no matter what.

‘Whether someone takes a different view or decision, that is fine, as long as we can understand why. Consensus on this sort of subject is thorny, and we’d love to get there, but it’s all about continuing talks. This is an opportunity, not a threat, to continue conversation to reach a greater level of understanding, and that’s what we’re working towards.

‘It’s a process that will will be ongoing and something we must buy into for all. Siya [Kolisi] has been phenomenal in this regard, and has said to team, “No matter how it goes I’m not going to judge, but I just want to understand.” It’s actually an opportunity for us, for all society.’

ALSO READ: Appreciate ‘personal choice’ when it comes to taking a knee

Asked whether it may be preferable for SA Rugby to hand down a definitive directive on what action to take, Dobson said it wasn’t quite that easy.

‘Aesthetically, a directive may be fairer on the players, but 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.

‘Ultimately though, for us, it’s 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.’

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