Luke Watson is incredibly difficult to like. Mind you, I fall into the side of those who believe he gets a pretty raw deal as a player and a person, but its pretty obvious that, Bhutana Komphela aside (hands up anyone who thinks Komphela is presenting his own agenda when he shoots off the hip? A little lesson, stop being naïve) no other name in SA Rugby arouses such strong and polarised opinions. He’s like Bob Skinstad in his tongue- baring, topless posing days, except in reverse.
Of course most of that grief has nought to do with him as a person and more with what he represents — Cheeky come back to haunt die volk he turned against. Even if Luke had spent his entire career with his head down working hard and not self-righteously mouthing off at every chance he’d be as vilified and hated by most ‘traditional’ rugby supporters as he is now. I’m not saying none of it is his fault. SA Rugby has always proven to not be too welcoming and encouraging of strong characters who commit such blasphemies as speaking their mind and put their personal principles above the team. A Gavin Hanson type for example would not have made it past u/7 rugby in die platteland without a coach/senior schoolmate setting him straight with the odd swift klap.
That that mindset is at the core of Springbok strength and a crucial part of our sustained success over the years (the odd blip aside) and is ingrained in most South African cultures is very obvious and I am certainly not suggesting a change in a (mostly) winning culture. It is bound to happen that every generation we’d have a maverick type character who will rock the boat and instead of silencing them, we could use their different take on things to help build a stronger culture. It would have been naïve to expect that the son of a man who made as brave a call about the direction his life was going to take as Cheeky did and who was schooled in revolutionary circles was going to toe the line in a culture that represents everything he and his family abhor. Now if Schalk Burger had said the same, I’d understand the shock and anger but really now, this is like being incredulous at Helen Zille going on a hysterical rant about the ANC being corrupt in its handling of kitchen supplies and calling for a Commission of Inquiry into the misuse of Parliamentary tea cups. Or something.
But back onto the most recent Luke saga. A lot of folk are unhappy about Luke’s utterances especially the alleged references to “Dutchmen” and an Afrikaans cabal supposedly keeping a tight grip on controlling rugby. To be fair, that kind of talk is bound to have people up in arms. I hope he didn’t say so just to get publicity. Hell, if General De La Rey came back to life and uttered those words it would raise questions, let alone the Rooibos drinking son of a perceived traitor.
Of course there will now be clamouring for him to dropped from the Bok team for what he allegedly said, but again that would be reactionary naivety at its worst. Luke is not about to be dropped for anything but rugby reasons. And I am talking about a serious sustained dip in form. He’s shown he doesn’t care what his team-mates think so no amount of ostracisation will make him consider packing it in. Compared to what his father went through, his troubles must be said to be piddling, and given the kind of people he has in his corner he should have more than enough motivation to keep at it.
What everyone is missing here is the actual substance of the comments causing the entire furore. Does he have a point? Is there merit in his views? Surely if it is that he is wrong then a stronger case can be made against him than that he seemingly picked on one population group and made heinous allegations against them. If you want to bring down a man who projects himself as being pious all you have to do is show facts that reveal the fraud he is and let the inevitable happen. Or ask for an inquiry. You know it’s bound to happen.
Prove him wrong and that may sufficiently embarrass his backers enough for them to sit him down and tell him he’s being “recalled” from the transformation struggle and will be redeployed elsewhere. If anything, he’d be a good candidate to sell the township masses on the benefits of Rooibos tea. The ANC surely wouldn’t mind healthy voters?
If he is right about Doc Craven, should we reconsider how history views the Godfather of Springbok rugby? If not, call him to task and ensure he faces whatever disciplinary measures are appropriate. Doc Craven’s is not a name to be bandied about making silly statements.
If it is that he is correct, however, then let’s do the sensible thing. Accept the truth for what it is and not let the source cloud our judgment. Certainly there’s a good argument to be made for rugby seemingly dragging its feet on unity and transformation. And if this is due to a Broederbond-type clique then maybe this needs to be outed and dealt with. It’s been 14 years and more since we started discussing transformation and I for one feel not nearly enough has been done, but before pointing fingers lets get down to the facts and reasons behind the situation. Otherwise we are going to continue along this line of it being an issue for aggrieved parties on both sides of the fence to mouth off about it when they have no more substance to debate and we’ll forever be mired in a mudslinging match while the issue keeps fermenting and doing exactly the opposite of bringing our society together
So, idiot or martyr? It does not really matter; lets not make this about Luke. He isn’t the be all and end all of SA Rugby. Let’s not give him attention and respect/derision that is undue. Let’s get our house in order, clear out whatever skeletons lurk in the Bok closet and not afford all and sundry a chance to sully the good name of our beloved sport. Look at it this way: if there’s no ammunition for those who wish to destabilise SA Rugby, then they are effectively silenced already.
The question is not then whether Luke is an idiot or not, it is: is SA Rugby where and how we want it to be?
P.S. On Doc Craven — SERIOUSLY, is what Luke allegedly alleged (love PC speak) true? I would sure like to know.