Springboks and All Blacks can never meet again in their primary kit – new World Rugby regulations

Springboks and All Blacks can never meet again in their primary kit – new World Rugby regulations
Ardie Savea of New Zealand with the ball during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park on 13 August 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

World Rugby has quietly adopted a policy that Test teams will have to wear ‘light’ or ‘dark’ kits from 2025 to make it easier for spectators who are colour-blind.

The Springboks might have to wear a white strip at this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France if they play against the likes of the All Blacks or France, despite never having had a kit clash before.

That’s because World Rugby, the game’s governing body, has made it policy to accommodate people who suffer from colour vision deficiency (CVD), more commonly known as colour-blindness.

That means when the Boks and All Blacks meet after 2025, and possibly as early as RWC 2023, they will – according to the decree by World Rugby – never play in their “home” kit. 

In 2021, World Rugby released guidelines about their intention to adopt colour-blindness policy, and last week it became official. This hasn’t gone down well.

Faf de Klerk of South Africa during the Autumn Nations Series international Test match between France and South Africa (Springboks) at Velodrome stadium on 12 November 2022 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images)

SA Rugby engaging

SA Rugby has written to World Rugby indicating that it might not follow the protocol demanding light and dark jerseys.

Daily Maverick understands that New Zealand Rugby, custodians of the All Blacks, are also unhappy – for obvious reasons. The All Blacks are the most recognisable brand in the sport. If they had to play 50% of their matches in white, it would undermine their brand and their commercial value.

“While SA Rugby supports World Rugby’s ambition to make rugby as inclusive as possible, we have serious reservations about the potential impacts the application of the colour-blindness regulations may have, and believe they need further interrogation,” chief executive Rian Oberholzer told Daily Maverick in an email.

“For instance, it would mean that the Springboks and All Blacks would never meet again with both in their primary colours at any World Rugby event. 

“The guidelines say that: ‘If only one person watching on the sidelines of the school field is having trouble following some elements of the game due to an avoidable kit clash, then rugby is letting them down.’

“But we believe that some or all of the 11 out of 12 males and 199 out of 200 women who are not colour-blind (on the statistical base presented) may also feel let down if the time-honoured traditions of the game are lost, setting aside the potential damage to the equity established in those colours and brands over centuries. 

“We believe the impact on the game’s broader support base also needs to be considered. We will continue to engage with World Rugby on the subject.”

Rugby is facing a wide range of issues, from concussion lawsuits to refereeing inconsistencies, as well as a financially struggling professional game.

Every union in the world is under commercial pressure – the Wales Rugby Union nearly collapsed earlier this year. Two English Premiership clubs declared bankruptcy, and in South Africa, the Western Province Rugby Football Union remains in administration. It is not guaranteed to recover.

In Australia, the sport is battling to attract fans and players, and New Zealand Rugby only averted commercial disaster by selling a stake in the All Blacks to a private equity firm for billions.

Rugby is facing an existential crisis brought on by various factors, not least of which are its myriad complex laws and their implementation. 

Colour-blindness seems to have been given priority over far more pressing issues.

James Ryan of Ireland is held up by Jac Morgan of Wales during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium on 4 February 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Michael Steele / Getty Images)

Small percentage

According to research published by World Rugby, about 8% of males and 0.5% of females suffer from red/green colour-blindness – the most common manifestation of the condition.

“The risk of being colour-blind varies with ethnicity and red/green types of colour-blindness are more common in people of North American and European descent,” the World Rugby document on colour-blindness notes.

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“The reasons for this are not yet fully understood. Scandinavian men have the highest chance of being colour-blind (more than one in 10), while people from sub-Saharan Africa and indigenous populations have the lowest chance.” 

This confirms that these findings appear to have come from a study of white people only. The prevalence of CVD among races that aren’t white is lower, and among the black population it’s only about 1.4%, according to one study.

It’s not that there aren’t issues with CVD for players, fans and officials alike. Former Scotland international, Chris Paterson, had this to say in World Rugby’s document on colour-blindness:

“If you are coaching and lay a red cone out [I] can’t see it … I’m red/green colour-blind and I can’t see it. Green/yellow cones confuse me as well,” Paterson said.

“You have to look really hard and you can’t see it in your peripheral vision, and if you run towards that red cone, you think someone has moved it.”

Apart from requiring teams to wear kits that contrast in terms of light and dark, other aspects of the regulations include asking broadcasters to consider colour in graphics.

While it’s commendable that World Rugby is attempting to make the sport as “inclusive” as possible, it does seem like a relatively small issue given the other problems faced by the sport.

Cynics might even say it’s a distraction from issues that are far more central to the long-term survival of the sport. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mervyn Bennun says:

    This is absolute crap. I am profoundly red-green colour blind and there are certain shades of red and green which I cannot say confidently are red or green, and I see purple as blue. But this rugby proposal is nonsense. As a spectator I have never been unable to distinguish the teams. Perhaps the people behind this proposal mistook the date — April Fool’s Day is long gone.

  • Kevin Leo-Smith says:

    I’m red green colour blind and I don’t know what problem they are solving. The only time I have a slight issue is say Ireland v Wales and even then it’s hardly a drama for me to distinguish both sides. They look similar but not the same.

    • Dee Bee says:

      Me too – maybe one side could wear black shorts or blue shorts? But that’s about it!

    • Dee Bee says:

      Also, these days it’s easy to distinguish between Ireland and Wales: the Welsh side is usually huddled under the posts waiting for the Irish conversion attempt!

      • Peter Holmes says:

        A really clever comment; hats off to you! PS Why do DM not listen to subscribers suggestions re introducing a “like” button for comments, and not having to jump through the absurd hoops necessary to post a comment?

  • Eyes Wide Shut says:

    Simple solution. Springboks and All Blacks must withdraw from the World Cup series. World Rugby will come crashing down like a house of cards.

  • Steven Burnett says:

    Interesting that this is for the spectators benefit. Surely it’s a bigger deal for colour blind players?

    If there’s anything practical to be done about colour, then the ball gets hard to see at rolling maul tries.

  • Johan Buys says:

    The risk of being color blind is much lower in South Africa.


    We are color-obsessed.

  • Liz Page says:

    Have they not noticed that the All Blacks wear black shorts & the Springboks white ones?

    • - Matt says:

      I do remember many years ago trying to watch a Springboks vs France game on a small black and white TV. Same shade of dark jerseys, white shorts and number of players at the time with similar surnames made it a tough ask 🙂

  • Andrew Johnson says:

    Another example of woke gone mad.

    • Alan Paterson says:

      Unfortunately it is indeed a case of virtue signalling just in case someone would maybe, possibly love to watch a game of rugby but can’t as they are incredibly stressed by colour blindness.

  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    So pandering to a small minority again. Why does the minority dictate to the majority?

  • Jeff Bolus says:

    What will World Rugby think of next ? Perhaps change red and yellow sending-off cards to black and white cards in future ….. ? 😳

  • Dee Bee says:

    I’m red-green colour blind and I’ve never, ever had a problem distinguishing teams on television. I’ve sometimes got the colour they’re wearing wrong, but I’ve never mixed up the two sides. This is beyond bullshit and makes a mockery of rugby’s traditions, as much as it does World Rugby’s understanding of what colour blindness actually entails. It also reveals World Rugby to be lazy in the extreme and without any sense of reasonableness in that they can’t simply say that ‘teams colours should not clash in a manner detrimental to those with colour blindness.’ How tricky is that? What happens if the teams play in an absolute mud bath and the jerseys become a uniform brown? Does the ref have to call the match off? Mindless drivel!

    • Kevin Leo-Smith says:

      Also there are free apps littering the internet that will show the normally sighted what being colour blind looks like and they can then use this to see a match and see that they are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

      I work with complex maps and charts and the team use these apps to make sure I can easily distinguish the different nuanced shades on the maps and the charts but this is very different to rugby on a screen or live where there really isn’t a problem at all for me being red green colour blind.

      Wokeness is becoming a disease in and of itself and the only way to fix this disease is to ignore it.

  • Petrus Kleinhans says:

    This is one of the best pictures of the kind of virtue signalling mode that the world has fallen into. Extreme issues like the impact on mental health of children of social media, the drug industry, gender confusion etc. is being ignored. Yet volumes are written whenever anyone does not just comply with the woke narratives of the day.

    • Philip Wernberg says:

      Maybe focus on other issues in the game like the officials and TMO’s decisions which often are not always applied the same. I understand the difficulties but with technology it should make it easier.

  • This is “human rights” gone mad!

  • Alex hiefa says:

    Absolute nonsense. I am Red/Green colour blind, but can clearly differentiate between colours. Some people seem to think that we see only black and white. In my experience, it is the colour blindness which has resulted in other senses being sharper. For example: camouflaged people or objects are more visible to me than to “normal” people.

  • Oblivious Traveler says:

    Just another reason to cancel my DStV Premium account. All these changes for whatever reason makes one loose interest in the game.

  • Steve Rogers says:

    Such Rubbish.
    I don’t like the Springboks to lose. Could we make a rule to stop teams beating us to avoid my rights to victory being infringed? And I don’t like green. Could they paint the field pink?

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    I’m colour blind and I’m gutted by this rule!

    I’m no longer going to be able to see my team win every game.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    Look, is International Rugby at one stage going to start to look for ways to enable quadruplegics to play rugby also? Come on! Rugby exists for those who are able to enjoy it. If you can’t, then find something that you can!

  • Ivor Daniel says:

    The over regulation of the sport is reducing its value in terms of traditional supporters as much as it is trying to appeal to a wider audience. Keep the basis of the sport whilst making it more accessible to wider without trying to over regulate.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Leftist dribble… sorry, drivel. What next? A certain percentage of handicapped players must be included in a team? Women allowed in all positions (except hooker)? Supersport must have sign language commentator?

  • bobmarsden says:

    Colour-blind (hue-confusable) people aren’t contrast-blind or pattern-blind. Having a yellow slash on a green jersey would distinguish Boks from the rest.

    I don’t know if anyone has noticed that one team is going one way, and the other the other. That might tell them apart.

  • Jack Russell says:

    Sounds like BS to me…….. anything to pull SA down, elements of the Tall Poppy syndrome, jealousy? Tell the IRB to get s…..d.

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