The SARU SACOS (South African Council of Sports) Legends group penned an open letter to Hansen regarding comments attributed to him in Peter Bills’ book The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team.
Hansen was quoted in the book saying “rugby wasn’t a black man’s sport” and South Africa was “the only team in sport that doesn’t pick its best team”. (It is required for next year’s Rugby World Cup that the Springboks pick up to 50 per cent of non-white players in their squad).
“I understand what they are trying to do but… Nelson Mandela understood it better than anyone else,” said Hansen.
“He knew that the Springboks was a team that could unite the nation. I still believe it is. If they got things right and allowed it to develop naturally, it would. And you would get the right people in the team. In the end, it would be a multi-cultural team.”
“Rugby wasn’t a black man’s sport,” Hansen continued, “but it was the sport that would unify the country in a way that no other sport or business could.
“Now I think that unity isn’t there so much. There is a lot of ill-feeling.
“When you look at the rugby, one of my great mates, Heyneke Meyer, found out that having to select a team based on what colour a man’s skin is, goes against all the principles and spirit of sport.
“What it does is create a situation where 1) you are not picking the best team and 2) the guys that get picked are thinking, ‘Am I here because of the reasons of quota or because I am good enough?’”
Hansen’s comments have caused a massive backlash in South Africa and are sure to lead to a hot reception for the All Blacks when they arrive early next week to prepare for the clash with the Springboks in Pretoria on October 6.
His comments “reeked of complete ignorance” said the SARU SACOS Legends open letter.
“We are obviously irritated and feel a sense of ire at those who make such simplistic pronouncements and construe these to be indicative of a hackneyed view which shows complete disdain for the hurt and pain experienced by those from the former non-racial SARU SACOS rugby stable.”
Addressing Hansen directly they added: “While we do not wish to take anything away from your celebrated successes and greatly admired astuteness as a rugby coach, we do offer a word of caution… where rugby men start to venture on terrain such as pronouncing reasons for other countries’ poor performance on a sports field.”
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