The obverse of this, unhappily, can be a laager mentality as profound as that of the Broederbond in South Africa, one that breeds unreasoning loyalty and, as in the case of the men who invited the Springboks to tour the U.S., a perverse refusal to face reality. "The Springboks are just sportsmen who want to play against us," they claim. In the U.S., where the game, though not young, is less developed than it is overseas, it's possible that such a naive concept might be believed, particularly by those kids from the Racine Rugby Club who were having fun out at Checkpoint Charlie.
It is unlikely that those kids have paid attention to the kind of financial inducements the South Africans are willing to put out to rejoin, in whatever way, the world of international sport—for instance, the $111,000 apiece recently offered to English cricketers to play a six-week season in South Africa. They may not even be aware of the somewhat derisory $25,000 handed to the Eastern Rugby Union in the U.S. by Louis Luyt, a Johannesburg millionaire. Luyt was an instrumental figure in a covert South African government propaganda campaign in the late 1970s that, when its details became known, forced Prime Minister John Vorster from office. But their elders—the presidents and the like of rugby organizations—must know of these things.
When the invitation to tour the U.S. was extended, those same elders must, indisputably, also have been aware of the possible consequences—which may appear much sooner than they think, possibly at the open meeting of the Olympic Congress this week in Baden-Baden, West Germany. John Rodda, a highly respected English journalist, wrote last week in the eminently unsensational Manchester Guardian: "Ever since Misha the Bear danced across Lenin Stadium and the Olympic flame died to close the games of the 23rd Olympiad, the Russians have been waiting to make a hawkish move against Los Angeles. Not for them...a boycott... Moscow just wants the Games removed from Los Angeles, and yesterday the plane which brought the beaten Springboks from Auckland to the United States was just the peg they needed." Rodda also reported that at the recent World Cup track and field meet in Rome, Juan Antonio Samaranch, the International Olympic Committee's president, who was once Spain's ambassador to Moscow, had gone out of his way to say how displeased he was that the U.S. rugby authorities had chosen to jeopardize the L.A. Games.
At Roosevelt Park in Racine, whence the few hundred spectators found their way via Checkpoint Charlie, there was nothing but jubilation among the men who rule U.S. rugby, even though the Midwest side went down to the Springboks 46-12. The farce continued to the end, as the TV camera crews arrived late and the protesters even later. A small handful of them rushed onto the field near the end of the game, and two were arrested, but the main body, bused out from Chicago, found only an empty field, the deed done.
Moments before the end, Nelie Smith, the South African coach who had been stone-faced and silent for long enough, permitted himself a smile. "We're nearly home and dry, eh?" he murmured to an American official.
And indeed, back in Pretoria, they will be chalking up another—political—victory on the road. What damage has been done to U.S.—and international—sport remains to be seen.