Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
People who have been watching the Rugby World Cup might have been perplexed at the number of players who defy the stereotypes that one has in one’s mind about people from specific countries.

Among those is flanker Pieter Hermias Cornelius Labuschagné, popularly known as “Lappies”, who has captained Japan a few times at this tournament. But he is not the only one. 

On the face of it, it looks like there are at least two other South Africans in the Japanese squad. There are South Africans playing for a few other teams and a host of other players who are playing for countries where they were not born.

Some people are saying this is because rugby’s restrictions on foreign-born players are not as strict as it is with soccer. But that is only part of the story. Soccer too makes use of foreign-born players, even though this is mainly at club-level, which some might argue is more important than international football.

The point is that they are applying an international principle in our capitalist world: that of supply and demand.

People will go wherever there is a demand for their skills, and, with sports people, it is not unusual to find players representing clubs or national teams far from the shores where they were born.

The world is becoming smaller, so mobility between countries, not only in sport, has also become easier. Think of all the South African-trained nurses and doctors who are practising all over the world or the many South Africans who are teaching English in Asian countries.

Throughout the centuries people have always gone where they can find better opportunities. The same should apply to people from other African countries who think that their lives will improve in South Africa.

Those who oppose their presence in South Africa should try to place themselves in their shoes. What if things were different on our continent and another country represented opportunities that South Africa does not have? We would probably have seen a migration of South Africans to that country, like we did during apartheid when thousands of South Africans sought exile in other African countries.

We need to open our minds more to the possible value that foreigners can add and not just condemn them outright for not being born here.

Foreigners can add a lot of value, not only in terms of skills and culture, but also in terms of broadening mindsets.

America, probably still the strongest economy in the world even though China is catching up fast, was built on the back of foreign labour but it also involved displacing the indigenous people - much like what happened in South Africa centuries ago.

I am loyal to South Africa, but I have always seen myself as a citizen of the world, and I have been able to share my skills and knowledge in different parts of the world. It does not make me less of a South African, because wherever I go I always carry my South African citizenship with pride.

It is difficult to let go of your country bonds, as people who have left the country in search of greener pastures have found. There is something that binds you. But that should be no reason to limit your search for opportunities.

I always encourage young people to try to find opportunities overseas, knowing that they will inevitably come back to South Africa more skilled and talented, because of the experiences that they would have picked up.

We want the world to embrace us. We should also learn to embrace the world, including people from our continent.

* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media.