Many of us have one person who lives rent-free in our heads: the ex who broke your heart, or the teacher who said you’d never amount to anything. For World Rugby – the sport’s governing body – South Africa’s Springboks are that “person”. A reminder: the Boks are reigning World Cup champions. In August the team beat long-time rivals the British and Irish Lions in a Test series on home soil and bagged a rare win against the world’s second-best team, New Zealand. Despite these and other accolades, coach Jacques Nienaber’s team announcement on Tuesday, ahead of Saturday’s game against England, was overshadowed by news that not a single Springbok (nor, incidentally, any All Black) was nominated as World Rugby’s Player of the Year.
Analysts, pundits and fans, many of them from elsewhere in the world, decried the absence of, among others, inspirational captain Siya Kolisi from the list. The organisation’s spat with former Springbok coach and current director of rugby Rassie Erasmus also reached a crescendo this week: Erasmus has been banned from all rugby for two months and can’t take part in any match day activities “including coaching, contact with match officials, and media engagement, until 30 September 2022”, News24 reported late yesterday. The sanctions are related to a video he released after the British and Irish Lions series in which he criticised refereeing standards. Erasmus and SA Rugby plan to appeal the charges. As Mariah Carey would have it, why is World Rugby “so obsessed” with Rassie? Free up some space in your heads, guys, and let our man go!
Meanwhile, South African soccer fans’ hearts were shattered by a bizarre piece of officiating in Bafana Bafana’s do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Ghana on Sunday. SA was penalised for a tackle in the penalty box that looked like it was done by a ghost. 👻The resulting penalty handed Ghana a 1 – 0 win. SA Football Association boss Danny Jordaan went as far as accusing Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye of “match manipulation” – fighting words, and the association has backed them up by lodging an official complaint with world soccer’s governing body, FIFA. It hopes FIFA will order that the match be replayed, giving Bafana another shot at qualifying for next year’s tournament in Qatar. We’re crossing our fingers for a fair outcome.