Meet the Jozi Cats – South Africa’s first gay and inclusive rugby team

Having been in existence for just a few months, the Jozi Cats challenged themselves and started a bold campaign to recruit new players, and fight homophobia in rugby. Simone Matika spoke to their chairman, TEVESHAN KUNI.

The campaign portrays the rugby players in front of the slurs that gay players receive, as a way to tackle homophobic stereotypes.

Teveshan Kuni, chairman of the Jozi Cats and a player of the team said that although they came up with this campaign to recruit more players, they already have about 25 players in the club. “We’ve got about 25 players in our squad at the moment and the long term view of our club is to offer both touch rugby and contact rugby. But what we’re doing with the recruitment position is we’re looking to grow the amount of players in both the touch rugby and contact rugby.”

The campaign went viral in South Africa recently, and picked up plenty of international attention as well. The team is being lauded for their inclusivity and for taking on the same stereotypes used to degrade gay players.

Kuni said that although there has been a great support for the campaign,they expected negative feedback too. “We’ve had some incidents, especially online, of negative remarks. But the balance of it has been outweighed by the positive support.”

Along with recruiting players, the team aims to challenge society – especially athletes. This campaign is out to change the perception that being a gay sportsman is an issue, especially in rugby – a sport which is perceived to be “manly” and brutal. The homophobic remarks received by the Jozi Cats are merely a reproduction of the slurs that gay professional sportsmen face. Springbok Jacques Potgieter was fined last year for a homophobic slur at a rugby game, which serves as proof that homophobia in the rugby-playing community is still common.

Rugby players and administrators have been asked to accept gay rugby players and help stop homophobia. A group of rugby players visited South Africa in 2015 under the leadership of Eric Denison, who plays with the Sydney Convicts, to discuss the acceptance of gay rugby players. They are now in discussions with rugby unions in many countries to address homophobia in sport.

With the hopes that this campaign will drive this conversation around inclusion in sport, Kuni added, “We create a space for people‚ you can come and be yourself. And although we’re a wide demographic of the gay community‚ we don’t expect you to be out as we respect everyone’s privacy.”

Featured image: screengrab from the video