Byline: NIALL AITCHESON
NIALL AITCHESON on signs of sea change
THE ugly spectre of racism continues to stalk South African rugby but the problem has finally been eradicated from the Springbok team itself, according to a player who has suffered more than most from 300 years of cultural divisions.
Breyton Paulse, the elusive Stormers and Western Province wing, has chosen the tour of France, Scotland and England to break his six-year silence on the issue that has taken him to hell and back.
He has backed claims made in Chester Williams' book A Biography of Courage of deep-seated racism in the South African professional game.
The book, ghost-written by Springbok press officer Mark Keohane, caused a furore when it was published on the eve of the squad's departure for Europe.
Keohane and former 1995 World Cup winner Williams, now employed by the South African Rugby Football Union as national sevens coach, could both have faced the sack had they not first obtained the support of influential chief executive Rian Oberholzer, the principal driving force behind the ongoing transformation process.
This singular act has opened the door for Paulse and other black players to come clean on the indignities they have had to suffer in order to wear the famous leaping antelope emblem.
He claimed he was deliberately marginalised under the coaching regimes of former Bok supremos Andre Markgraaff and Nick Mallett, but fear of losing his place in the squad prevented him from speaking out.
Paulse had been 'discovered' by Markgraaff at the national trial in 1996, when he danced his way through most of the probable Test team to score a marvellous individual try.
Ironically, Markgraaff was later to resign in disgrace over a taped racist phone call to a disgruntled provincial player.
Shunned by management and made to feel like a second- class citizen, a disillusioned Paulse demanded to go home early from the end- of- season tour of Argentina, France and Wales.
But, if he thought Markgraaff's resignation would change things for the better, he was sadly mistaken.
Carel du Plessis didn't consider him ready to face Ian McGeechan's Lions and, when Mallett took charge in September 1997, the twinkle-toed magician from the wine- growing centre of Ceres soon realised he was little more than a pawn in a wider political game.
'It was very uncomfortable. I wasn't given the opportunities I should have got. …