Beating them at their own Game: Rugby, the Anglo-Boer War and Afrikaner Nationalism, 1899?1948

06 Jul 2016

Nationalism is an ideology, a pattern of thought at the centre of which lies a certain principle, idea or phenomenon. This principle, idea or phenomenon, Kotze suggests, provides man with ?a sense of worth, of significance, security, safety, happiness, tranquillity, peace, freedom and hope for the future?.l Afrikaner nationalism, it could be argued, emerged because of such needs. Striving for self-determination, constitutional reform was sought by Afrikaners to escape the effects of imperialism imposed by the British. Following the Anglo-Boer War and gaining momentum throughout the 1930s and 1940s, nationalism began to awake in a large number of Afrikaners, who set out to gain an independent state within which their characteristics, values and interests would be secure. Sport played an integral role in this process. In its capacity ?to give meaning to life, to create and interconnect senses of achievement and identity? sport, according to Allison, has a ?complex and important interaction with nationality and the phenomenon of nationalism?.2 For Afrikaners, sport, and rugby in particular, has served a definite purpose within their pursuit of identity and recognition. Even today, for those arriving in South Africa, there is a sense that history is still unfolding for the new ?Rainbow Nation?. Yet as we concern ourselves with the contemporary relations of black and white within the country, one hundred years ago a war raged that was the pinnacle of a dispute in the troubled relations between two white races ? the Afrikaner and the British. The onset of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 marked the beginning of a 50-year period that was to witness the near-destruction and subsequent re-creation of a small, yet determined nation at the tip of Southern Africa. Inspired by a genuine interest in South Africa, its heritage and its sport, the aim of this study therefore, is to explore the processes and events that shaped the Afrikaner people during one of the most crucial periods in their history.