University of Namibia’s (Unam) triumph in the coveted Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) Premier League title has been greeted with mixed emotions.
The students clinched the prestigious national elite league crown for the second successive season – dispatching old timers and title rivals Wanderers 44-36 in an exciting final at the Hage Geingob Stadium in Windhoek last Saturday.
It was the Clever Boys’ second title, having beaten the same opponents in last year’s final, but the well-deserved victory left a bitter aftertaste in the mouth of many a neutral rugby follower, including the club’s supporters and several local rugby pundits.
Immediately after Unam’s win, social media was abuzz as fans, former players and officials angrily castigated rugby authorities and sought concrete answers about the union’s maneuverings.
Rugby followers want a thorough explanation of the reason why Unam, as the legitimate champions, are denied a chance to represent their country at the maiden edition of the South African Provincial Gold Cup Club Tournament, made up of regional club champions, also featuring league winners from Namibia and Zimbabwe, respectively.
Upon closer inspection, New Era Sport has established that Unam were primarily excluded from participating in the prestigious club championship, because the rules do not make provision for university teams.
However, some rugby pundits are not exactly impressed and believe this is just a blatant excuse and accuse the hierarchy at Lichtenstein Strasse of having deliberately kept their counterparts at SARU in the dark about the reality of the domestic rugby structures, given that Unam is not registered as a university team, but as a rugby club.
Moreover, there is no university league in Namibia.
Such is the anger amongst local rugby followers that disgruntled voices and retired players are calling for the immediate formation of a breakaway league. The feeling is that “non-white teams” are being systematically excluded and discriminated against by those in blue suits pulling the strings at Lichtenstein Strasse.
“This is blatant racism, we’re getting sick and tired of being treated like orphans of local rugby,” reads one the comments online.
“There are always issues whenever non-white clubs dominate proceedings. Western Suburbs, Rehoboth and Reho Falcons have all won the league title at regular intervals, but never got handsomely rewarded for their efforts,” charged an angry club official, who requested that his identity to be withheld for fear of reprisal.
To rub salt in the wound, serious questions are being raised as to why the NRU on behalf of Wanderers requested SARU to relax the rules by exempting Wanderers from fielding the required number of four players of colour in their squad, given the conspicuous absence of a transformation policy within the domestic rugby structures.
In the meantime, Unam are reported to have lodged an official complaint with the presiding body, NRU, about their omission – only to receive a letter from SARU laying out the reasons for their exclusion, but the complainants would have none of that and have now resolved to seek recourse with the Namibia Sports Commission for prompt intervention.
In a desperate bid to slip through the backdoor, Wanderers are reported to have tiptoed across town to try and entice players from their rivals by dangling a juicy carrot in their face convince them to jump ship.
It’s rumoured the “White Stallions” are burning the midnight oil to lure players of colour to their stable, with Suburbs skipper Victor ‘Giggs’ Rodriques amongst their main targets.
“They (Wanderers) must stop their hidden racist tendencies and leave our players alone. It’s surely not our fault that they failed to transform rugby within their own structures. It is now incumbent on them to put their ducks in a row or face the consequences of their action,” charged Western Suburbs honcho and local rugby guru Corrie Mensah.
Numerous attempts to get clarity on these potentially damaging allegations that could bring the game of rugby into disrepute proved futile, as Elizma Theron, the NRU’s acting chief operations officer’s mobile phone went unanswered.