If South Africa wants to address the slow rate of transformation in sport, the nation will have to face up to one of the biggest elephants in its room, according to Springbok icon Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira.
Reacting to a recent post by Bok captain Siya Kolisi, as the country's top athletes continued to throw their weight behind the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Mtawarira said he had felt "compelled" to share his views.
The former prop, who played 117 Tests for the Springboks before announcing his retirement last year, believed there were deep-rooted issues which had not been addressed more than 30 years after unity.
"I have a full understanding of how systems in our country have marginalised certain demographics and ethnic groups," said the 34-year-old Mtawarira.
"It's not easy doubting and second guessing yourself, not because of your lack of talent and drive, but because you do not fallen into certain 'acceptable' categories.
"It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that you have to put in twice the work to get half the opportunities available."
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A few former international athletes, including Proteas spin bowler Pat Symcox and Bafana Bafana star Mark Fish, had criticised the stance made by BLM in recent weeks, standing up instead in support of All Lives Matter.
Some rugby and cricket fans had also protested the BLM stand, burning their supporters' jerseys and posting videos on social media, claiming there was a lack of support for other allegedly marginalised South African citizens.
However, hundreds of current and former elite athletes in various codes had voiced their support for BLM, sharing the personal stories about the struggles they had faced during their careers, while government and multiple national federations had admitted there needed to be swifter action in addressing transformation in sport.
Mtawarira felt the progress in recent years was evident, with seven players of colour competing in last year's triumphant Rugby World Cup final, but he said there was a long way to go to ensure there was equal opportunity across the board.
"We need to embrace one another for our differences because there is strength in that, and we need to afford each other the same opportunities to excel," he said.
"I really feel that at this time, in this moment, we're at a crossroads. We're at a pivotal moment where we have to make a decision and address certain things we might have ignored in the past and bring them to light.
"For us to move forward, we have to address the big elephant in the room. We have to bring about conversations which are going to bring discomfort to everybody, but that will allow us to grow."
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