PRETORIA, September 3- South African plaintiffs on Wednesday dropped a legal attempt to stop the Springboks from playing in the Rugby World Cup in a dispute over a lack of black players in the squad.
More than 20 years after the end of apartheid, South Africa’s fraught race relations have been highlighted by anger over just nine black players being named in the 31-man squad for the tournament in England.
A little-known group, the Agency for a New Agenda (ANA), brought the urgent court application to try to prevent the side flying out to the event, which starts on September 18.
The case, which was never thought likely to succeed, cited Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and the country’s rugby union SARU as respondents.
After a day of legal negotiations, Judge Ntendeya Mavundla said the ANA had agreed to drop its application for the Springbok players to be forced to surrender their passports.
“In terms of the… players who are supposed to go abroad, my understanding is that action is no longer sought,” Mavundla said at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital.
Mavundla nevertheless criticised the country’s slow pace of racial reform since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
“It cannot be that, 21 years down the line, transformation is at a snail’s pace in all sectors,” he added.
He committed the court to investigating the matter further, declaring it to be an issue of “national interest” for South Africa.
“The only issue outstanding is they want a judicial inquiry to be appointed,” said Riaan Grundlingh, counsel for SARU.
“Obviously I’m happy (about the judge’s decision).”