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SA rugby replaces Springbok badge

Springbok logo on rugby shirt
The Springbok emblem has provoked controversy for many years

A new emblem is to adorn the rugby jersey worn by South Africa's national team, replacing the Springbok antelope, say rugby officials.

South Africa's national flower - the King Protea - will now have pride of place on the left-hand side of the world champions' rugby jersey.

The 102-year old Springbok emblem will move to the right-hand side.

Critics wanted the Springbok removed completely as it was a painful reminder of the country's apartheid past.

"The decision was taken to accommodate the application of the national sports emblem - the King Protea - and to bring SA Rugby in line with other South African sports federations," the South African Rugby Union said in a statement.

The timing of the change has not been decided, it added.

The change has inspired intense debate, with critics describing the Springbok as a symbol of the Afrikaner community which ruled the country under apartheid.

In the days of white supremacy, rugby became the country's pre-eminent sport and black players were not allowed to wear the Springbok jersey.

While rugby in the country remains a white-dominated sport, some argue that racial barriers were broken in 1995 when former president Nelson Mandela - wearing a Springbok jersey - lifted the World Cup trophy after South Africa won the tournament for the first time.

The 1995 World Cup-winning team contained only non-white player, Chester Williams, and the team which beat England to win the 2007 tournament contained just two - Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen.

The Springboks are now coached by their first non-white coach, Peter de Villiers, and the team which hammered England 42-6 on 22 November had six non-white players in the starting XV and another two on the bench.

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