Some of the Jozi Cats
South Africa’s most high profile gay sports team, Jozi Cats, say it’s not trying to be controversial by embarking on a tour of the Free State.
The Johannesburg-based rugby club is in the midst of planning the tour of the province, which has a reputation of being deeply conservative, as well as of the Western Cape.
The media has described the venture as “a risky plan” that will take the Jozi Cats into “the sport’s traditional heartlands”.
Mambaonline spoke to the club’s chairperson, Teveshan Kuni, who revealed that the tour is still in its infancy and that it’s not specifically intended to create a furore.
“The idea wasn’t to rattle any cages but rather go on a rugby tour as mates and learn more about the game from some of the best rugby hot spots on the planet and grow together as a club,” he said.
Kuni explained that the aim is “to grow gay and inclusive rugby as has been done in many other countries where teams like ours and conventional teams play side by side”.
He continued: “The level of rugby at tournaments like the Bingham Cup [an international gay rugby tournament] is increasingly high for the teams playing in the finals and we could definitely use this experience to elevate our game to be competitive in our own right.”
Kuni said he wasn’t concerned about the reception the team might get in the Free State. “We’ve constantly been surprised by how accepting the rugby world has been thus far.”
The club was thrown into the international spotlight following a brilliantly provocative marketing campaign to attract members which went viral around the world. According to Kuni, the response from the rugby world has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve had a warm welcome from Wanderers Rugby, Zoo Lake Touch Rugby (our fourth season) and the rugby press,” he said.
Highlights have included former Springbok Lawrence Sephaka attending a Jozi Cats training session, an influx of new members and being contacted by almost 80 other gay rugby clubs around the world.
Kuni noted that in countries like Australia, New Zealand and the UK there are active programs, led by or with the participation of the rugby sporting authorities, that deal with homophobia in sports. In South Africa, there are no such initiatives in any of the major sporting codes.
“We hope we start that conversation here,” Kuni said.