Monty: Don't insult the real victims

Published May 18, 2002


By Andy Colquhoun

David Barends was a talented Cape rugby player with pace and a swerve and a desire to make a name in the game. He was born in Bredasdorp and was such a good schoolboy rugby player at Genadendaal High School that he was soon playing for his local Rock Roses club.

He was stocky but naturally quick, holding the Boland schools' 100 metres record, and in 1966 he joined Progress RFC in Cape Town, instantly becoming a first team fixture. He rose quickly through the ranks of local rugby, winning selection for the old SA Coloured Rugby Union for whom he was so impressive in a test match against the SA African Springboks that he was signed by English rugby league club Wakefield Trinity. If Trinity noticed that Barends was black they didn't mention it; they just saw a player good enough to fill a jersey.

A week after arriving on those damp northern shores, Barends scored two tries on his debut and before his career was out he represented Great Britain against the Kangaroos and Kiwis.

Or there was Green Vigo, another Cape Town man who is still mentioned with affection whenever two or more RL men of a certain age reminisce. I have a BBC videotape entitled '101 Great Rugby League Tries' and there - right in the middle of it - is a Green Vigo hat trick.

There were others as well, names unknown and mostly forgotten such as Enslin Dlambulo of the Western Province Bantu rugby team or the richly gifted Goolam Abed who made the same trek to the professional rugby fields of the north of England in the 1950s. And what about Winty Pandla who "went north" or John Newman who ended up playing in Australia?

They were all black rugby players to whom the denial of access to South Africa's best and biggest playing fields was probably incidental to their exclusion from most other places as well.

So, forgive me if I am absent at the impending wake for the disappearance of a gilded Springbok generation. And I beg your indulgence for spilling not a tear at the recent delivery of incontestable proof that this country has finally gone to the dogs; what other conclusion is there to draw when we are told that Percy Montgomery was simply too blond?

My excuse for not joining the national outpouring of grief at the blatantly forced evictions of so many Springboks is that I'm so nauseated by the sanctimonious rubbish that the apologists have tried to foist on us that I'd be in danger of retching over the coffins of our dearly departed if I were to join the crowds at graveside.

Monty as victim? It's an insult to even think it. It's an insult to the memory of the Vigos and Barends who managed to escape this country to find expression for their game and it's an insult to the countless thousands who didn't - and that includes white players such as Carel du Plessis - who were denied the international stage to give full expression to their talent.

Quotas haven't forced one player overseas and, even if they had, it's the simple fact that this country is run by a government who believes in transformation that has allowed Monty to earn one cap never mind his 50.

It's also the fact that South Africa's government is now welcomed among the comity of nations that allows our players to go overseas and earn contracts that are worth as much as R6m or R7m over three years. If that's victimisation, then please, someone victimise me.

This may read like anti-Monty rant but it's far from that. All he is doing is exercising a sensible option and everyone needs to wake up to the fact that when a Springbok hits 27 or 28 he is going to begin to think about timing a trip north for a pension top-up. And there's not much SA Rugby can do about that until Trevor Manuel works a miracle and reverses 20 years of exchange rate history.

But it would be nice if those who go take a leaf out of the Braam van Straaten book and simply say they are going for the money or to spend more time with their family rather than insinuate that they have been let down by SA Rugby or by South Africa 2002.

Springboks on the point of departure should note that claiming there is no security in a provincial contract worth somewhere between R500 000 and R1 million a year goes down like a bucket of cold sick with men who normally occupy the beds at the Pretoria Police College where the Boks will take up residence next week.

A trainee constable grosses R32 400 a year, which soars to R42 000 for the privilege of going out onto our streets to stop his neighbours stealing his gun.

At the end of his rugby league career David Barends stayed on in England and got himself a job because in those days there was the quaint notion that a career in professional sport was not an automatic entitlement to a life of ease.

For the past 20 years or so he has worked for the National Probation Service in Doncaster, Yorkshire, a field in which I imagine great fortitude and generosity of spirit are required.

If we all had a little more of those qualities we might have been spared the grubby finger-pointing of the past week.

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