Koornhof brought in a new look in 1972: multinational sport. This was in effect the politicians' way of multiracializing sport without admitting it to conservative constituents. South Africa is in the process of separating its people by nationality and ethnic origin rather than by color (a specious step, because all blacks will ultimately be classified as foreigners). Koornhof's multinational policy thus permitted sportsmen of different races to compete as representatives of their own national ethnic group—as whites, Asians, Zulus, Xhosas (of the now-independent Transkei homeland), Vendas, Sothos and so on. In this same vein, merely inviting neighboring Rhodesia or Malawi turned an athletic meeting into an "international event."
But it was all a matter of semantics. The multinationalism was limited to individual competition and contests on "national ethnic" lines between teams representing specific racial groups. There were no racially mixed teams, everything being conducted on a selective, invitation basis.
Then last year a mixed South African soccer team played against an Argentinian team in Johannesburg. When the visitors were beaten soundly, black and white spectators and a national TV audience cheered not for players of any particular color, but for a South African team. One of the South African players, Cedric (Sugar Ray) Xulu, said, "Color? I saw no color. Only a football. You just saw soccer being played color-blind."
Then came Koornhof's policy statement of a few weeks ago in which he (the government) encouraged sporting bodies of various racial groups to get together and form "Premier Leagues" in which they would enter teams to play other racial groups. Still strictly "within the framework" of policy, it was mixed-race sport at club level but with no mention of multiracial sides.
A bunch of rugby players—the hardcore "contact" sport that everybody said would never crumble—finally broke the multiracial team barrier last month. Led by a gutsy Springbok trialist, Dan (Cheeky) Watson, and his brother Vallance, nine whites defied an official warning from Koornhof and split up five and four to compete on otherwise black sides. The match was played in a black stadium in Port Elizabeth, in the middle of a township that had recently been the scene of violence and discontent at white authority and whites in general. After the match Watson was carried triumphantly from the field by blacks.
The rebel white rugby players were threatened with suspension as well as fines for entering a black township without a permit. Says Watson, "A policy isn't law, and I can't see how you can be arrested for contravening a policy. The real winner was rugby."
Dan Qeqe (which is pronounced like the sound of two knocks on a door), one of the black organizers of the mixed match, said, "The only way to stop this match would have been to lock us all up, players and spectators as well. We're sportsmen and human beings, and nobody can tell us with whom we can and can't play."
Koornhof blasted the players for "wilful disregard" of policy, but even the hotheads in the nationalist government were advised to cool it. When the Port Elizabeth dust had settled it was noticeable that South African sport had taken a shuffle forward.
The president of the Rugby Board, Dr. Danie Craven, a former Springbok star, had once vowed that no non-white would ever play on a national team and that the Springbok emblem was and would evermore be reserved for whites only. Now he admitted that future teams for international matches would be picked on a multiracial, merit basis.
Mixed rugby at club level would come, conceded Craven, and "when the day dawns when there will only be mixed South African teams, we [the whites] shall gladly share the Springbok emblem with the rest, if that's what they want."