Mujati’s Springboks return that never was
Harare – Former Springboks prop forward Brian Mujati might just have to close the chapter of international rugby, as chances of featuring for the former world champions looks so remote.
A window of hope was opened recently when Springboks’ coach, Heyneke Meyer, made overtures to Mujati to return to the Springboks during their end-of-year tour of Europe.
But the South African government shot down the move with Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, refusing to grant the South African Rugby Union (SARU) a special dispensation that would have allowed the prop to feature for the national team.
While the government did not close the door on Mujati, with the Eyewitness News Sport website saying Mbalula advised SARU to follow the correct process in reintegrating the prop back into the Springboks, the good money is on that not likely to happen.
The Zimbabwean, who has 12 caps for Springbok, will have to carry a South African passport, just like his compatriot Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira for him to be re-admitted into the Boks again.
Reports claim that Mujati now carries a British passport but he has never confirmed that.
Interestingly, in an exclusive interview with the Saints TV, a television channel for his English rugby club Northampton Saints, Mujati said England did not feel like home.
Asked by the interviewer whether his adopted country (England), where he has made a big name for himself in the top-flight Aviva Premiership, now felt like home, Mujati said:
“I don’t think it will ever be home,” said Mujati
“But it’s as close as I can get to it.
“I’ve been travelling around. I’m from Zimbabwe and I’ve been to South Africa. It’s hard, though, to call England home.”
But Mujati also feels his move to Saints has been a good one.
“It’s been good for me; it’s been good for my career and I think I have grown as a player,” he told Saints TV.
“It’s been a bit special, my family is here as well and I’m enjoying it.”
Mujati, 28, was the 32nd player that Meyer had targeted for the Springboks during their end-of-year European tour where they have been solid but not spectacular.
But bringing Mujati back into the team appears easier said than done.
After all, he was ignored ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 when he looked in prime shape to make the team.
Racist activists, who have always targeted him simply because his father Joel was a beneficiary of the land reform programme in Zimbabwe, turned to cyberspace to campaign for Mujati to be frozen out of the Springboks squad.
With New Zealand holding a fair percentage of white farmers who left Zimbabwe at the height of the land reform programme, the management felt taking Mujati along would bring an ugly side-show that would distract the then world champions.
There was another issue, too.
Last year, Mujati rocked the rugby world with sensational allegations that two South African players had racially insulted him during a match in England.
The prop claimed Leinster's Steven Sykes and Heinke van der Merwe had called him a “baboon”.
“Steven Sykes and Heinke van der Merwe were calling me a baboon during the scrums last night. Racism is still alive and things don't change,” he wrote on his Tweeter account.
“I was shocked by how blatant they were being and to think I actually thought I knew Heinke from back in the Lions days.
“Been living in England too long, I'd forgotten about all that SA racist s*** ha, ha. Racism still alive, they just are concealing it.
“Last night my wife told me to let it go. Gonna get a lecture when I get home, but sometimes you gotta drop a few truth bombs.”
Mujati has returned into the spotlight at a time when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has questioned some of the selection decisions, especially in rugby, which tend to put black players at a disadvantage.
“The situation is the coaches select the basic minimum black players in the team and relax thereafter and overlook good players,” ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, said earlier this month.
“Why do we wait until there are no other players? The attitude is that coaches think this is a white sport and they meet the basic amount of players.
“My view is that the new coach (Meyer) is not keen on putting black players in the team, even those that have proven they are the best.”
Legendary South African fast bowler, Makhaya Ntini, has also questioned the selection of the Proteas’ squad currently on tour in Australia, especially after black wicketkeeper, Thami Tsolekile, was overlooked when JP Duminy pulled out with an injury.
“Tsolekile would have been playing if he was white. People will say we are talking politics, but we need to say these things,” Ntini was quoted by Australian website, New.com.au.
“I don’t understand how we can only have one black cricketer in our (Test) squad. What’s going on? In the whole squad – one?
“I always felt as if I was on the verge of being dropped. Whenever a new bowler came into the side the question always was whether they were coming to take my position.”
Interestingly, even some white journalists in England feel there is something wrong with the South African selection system.
“If ability alone were the deciding factor in the South African rugby squad for the Rugby World Cup this year, then a player most South Africans have forgotten would comfortably win a place,” blogger, Peter Bills, wrote in his emotional piece on Mujati in The Independent last year
“And under an ANC Government in South Africa which is constantly grumbling at the lack of true integration in South African Test rugby sides – i.e. the limited number of black players in the Springboks team – here is one who fully stands up to scrutiny as to whether he is good enough.
“You would hope for Brian Mujati’s sake that his excellence and his considerable efforts since he arrived in the UK would be recognised by his own national selectors this year.
“But I’m sure he isn’t holding his breath in anticipation.”