Why are blacks still sidelined?

2013-04-30 10:00

I dedicate this column to the late great Patsa Matyeshana.

He played most of his rugby before I was even an idea in my parents’ heads, but our interactions were very fruitful.

He took time to teach me about the history of black rugby.

He was the focal point of a documentary I produced with my classmates in 2010.

May his soul rest in peace.

It’s a pity former Springbok prop Brian Mujati had to make his quota comments in faraway Northampton, England, when he should be a Springbok.

This is not going to happen despite the ever-widening tighthead prop chasm.

That’s not my major complaint. I’ll do an appraisal after top props Euan Murray of Scotland and Italian Martin Castrogiovanni come to these shores, as there are immediate transformation issues to deal with.

I have a lot of respect for foreign coaches in South Africa as they have a tough grain to go against.

His lack of man-management aside, John Mitchell is an astute tactician with a knack for identifying young talent.

And so is John Plumtree. You don’t win three Currie Cup titles and make Super Rugby play-offs without rugby matter between your ears.

However, I find Plumtree complicit in his deliberate ignoring of winger Sibusiso Sithole until a horrific injury ended fullback Andries Coetzee’s season last Saturday.

Why did it have to come to injury for a coach’s hand to be forced to pick a player of colour? We don’t know if he will even start on the Sharks’ Australasian tour. After all, the unknown and untested fullback Sean Robinson was picked ahead of Sithole in the home matches.

No disrespect to the 2011 South African Schools representative, Robinson, but what had he done that Sithole had not? The latter played at all representative levels and had an exciting stint with the Blitzbokke in 2010.

Sithole, along with winger Sizo Maseko, are the Sharks XV’s top try scorers in the Vodacom Cup.

Doesn’t that justify selection for the Super Rugby team? If that is not the benchmark, then I do not know what is – unless it’s skin colour.

I understood when wingers JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane kept Sithole out, but why are the concessions made to keep white players in the team not handed equally to black players?

What Plumtree did with Sithole was nothing short of pushing a talented player down the barrel of boredom and eventually killing off a potentially exciting career.

Selecting and playing them now when the Sharks are in trouble stinks of desperation.

They should have had their opportunities when the team was doing well. We’ve seen enough of provincial sides not doing their best to protect black talent while letting white players flourish.

These are the kinds of things that our rugby legends like Matyeshana pined for, an equal opportunity for players of all colours to stake an equal claim to any sort of representative jersey.

Having played for Natal in the apartheid era, Plumtree should know better.

»Follow me on Twitter @kaymorizm

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