SA rugby’s playing field not yet level

2011-08-13 19:00

Rugby unions have been transformed at management level but it’s “harder” to ensure more diversity on the playing field.

This was the reaction of ­provincial rugby bosses after South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins said last week that he was ­dissatisfied that certain teams were still “lily-white”.

Hoskins said he was unhappy that teams in the Currie Cup tournament, the national ­Under-19 and Under-21 tournaments were still too white. Saru was also roasted in Parliament over its transformation programme.

Hoskins confirmed he had sent a letter to provincial unions a month ago in which he berated them for not having enough black players in this year’s Currie Cup and the SA junior teams contests.

“It’s unacceptable that certain unions are still choosing lily-white teams. Saru is committed to ­transformation, but not all the ­unions are pulling their weight,” Hoskins said.

However, provincial bosses have defended their transformation ­programmes.

Herman Abrahams, deputy chief executive of Western Province, ­admitted “there is a shortage of transformation structures”, while adding in the same breath “our ­management positions are filled by black people and the critics must not just look at the 15 ­players who run out of the tunnel.”

He said yearly targets must be set for black players.

“If we widen the intake of black players at the bottom, more ­players will make it to the senior teams.”

Blue Bulls Company chief executive Barend van Graan said they recruited only the best available talent, pointing out that their numbers were 21.7% black players in the Under-19 team, 18.2% for the Under-21 side and 18.2% for the senior squads.

Van Graan said their best black players were not available for the Currie Cup as they were serving in national teams.

Free State Rugby Union ­president Harold Verster said, ­practically, transformation took time. “There are people of colour in management and we have already developed numerous black players, just to lose them to the other ­unions.”

Griffons chief executive Eugene van Wyk said they had a high number of black players because there were black management members in decision-making ­positions.

In the meantime, sources inside Saru’s committee for transformation and development said during a meeting on Wednesday there was concern over transformation failures at provincial level.

Apparently most fingers were pointed at the northern unions.

There were fears that government might impose quotas again as there had not been visible ­improvement in transformation.

Saru chief executive Jurie Roux said the union was drafting an official transformation policy following the midweek indaba.

“This is being drafted in ­conjunction with the Department of Sport and Recreation and we hope talented players of colour will in future be identified through mass participation and go on to play at the highest level.”

Makhaya Jack, a TV commentator and former player for Saru (in the old segregated national union for coloured players), this week said the minister of sport should issue an ultimatum to provinces to transform.

The minister should ­also create structures separate from Saru to evaluate and monitor transformation.

He said South African teams should be at least 60% black. “Saru is sitting on a transformation charter, but nothing is happening.

“You see good black players in the Grant Khomo and Craven Week teams, but they disappear when it comes to the Vodacom and Super Rugby tournaments, as well as in the national teams.”

Absa, the main sponsor of the Springboks and Saru’s national competitions, this week said their last year’s position – over the slow pace of transformation in rugby – “remains unchanged”.

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