Eight South African rugby players have been criticised for refusing to show support for the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement ahead of an English Premiership game.
A number of English Premiership teams have supported the movement, and numerous players took a knee before games as the competition resumed on Friday following suspension of matches due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has asked the country's rugby association to explain the actions of the eight players who refused to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Mthethwa said: “You must remember we were together at the World Cup in Japan as a country with some of the players and one thing which cannot be tolerated is when somebody is displaying racist behaviour and showing racist attitude."
The Sale Sharks players were among eleven who elected to remain standing during the pre-match activities against Harlequins.
Players from both sides wore "Rugby Against Racism" T-shirts.
Those who did not kneel are Springbok World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager‚ twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez‚ their older brother Robert‚ Akker van der Merwe‚ Coenie Oosthuizen and club captain Jono Ross, Times Live reports.
“Yes, the message is right, the statements are right, and we’ve been told the T-shirts mean something, but we cannot ignore the connotations of this,” wrote English rugby writer Jack de Menezes.
“All 8 South Africans stand (with 3 others) and it does not look good at all. We can’t just ignore history.”
A number of South Africans, including Willem Petzer and well known rugby journalist Simon Borchardt supported the players’ decisions to refuse to show support for the anti-racism movement.
“My personal view: By wearing ‘Rugby Against Racism’ T-shirts, these SA players are clearly supporting the anti-racism campaign. If they don’t want to kneel (for whatever reason, including religious, I presume), that’s their decision. Each to their own,” Borchardt wrote on his Twitter page.
Meanwhile, Harlequins winger Nathan Earle said he believes that rugby can do more to improve diversity in the game.
The 25-year-old said rugby would benefit from finding more talent from deprived areas of society and he is a firm believer in what the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to achieve.
"Now more than ever we need to keep the conversation going whether we do something in rugby or outside rugby."