Boks in racial maul

2014-06-28 00:00

HERE we go again — there are not enough ethnic black players in the Springbok team.

The Bok coach is faced with the consequences of a system that constantly fails to produce the required players and AfriForum jumps up and down.

SA Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins has now said that more “African blacks” (ethnic black) players must be given opportunities to be included in the Springbok team.

In the process, the merit of each of the black players in the group for today’s Test against Scotland is now under suspicion.

It now appears that as a result of Hoskins’s “intervention”, Lwazi Mvovo will wear the number 11 jersey in the absence of Bryan Habana, and that prop Trevor Nyakane and flanker Oupa Mohojé will be on the reserve bench against the wishes of Meyer.

Believe me, even without Hoskins’s statements, all of them would have been there.

To put the national team under such pressure is a sin.

Allow me to illustrate the merits of transformation with simple arithmetic: would you rather select a Bok team from a pool of 10 000 players or have the choice of 100 000 players? Every right thinking person would opt for the latter because that would result in a stronger Bok team.

Black players are not interested to be included in a Springbok team merely on the colour of their skin. It is an insult to anyone who strives to be the best.

It is the job of Meyer and his fellow selectors, Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh, to select the best available players from the South African players’ pool, regardless of their race.

The best place to judge the players is in Super Rugby. Taking transformation into account, the question is how many ethnic black players have regularly played to have been considered.

According to my calculation they are:

• loose head props: Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane;

• hookers: Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi;

• lock: Luvuyiso Lusaseni;

• loose forwards: Siya Kolisi, Oupa Mohojé and Lubabalo Mtembu;

• centre: S’bura Sithole; and

• wings: Lwazi Mvovo, Akona Ndungane, Odwa Ndungane and Raymond Rhule.

Of this small group of 13 players, six are in the Bok group (Mtawarira, Nyakane, Kolisi, Mohojé, Sithole and Mvovo) and had he been fit, Ntubeni would have been there.

Nyakane, Mbonambi, Lusaseni, Mohojé, Mtembu and Kolisi are not the number one choices of their provincial teams in these positions.

Mtawarira is beyond doubt South Africa’s best loose head prop and Mvovo is in all probability the best left wing after Habana.

To make room for Kolisi or Mtembu, the Bok coach would have to leave out either Francois Louw or Marcell Coetzee and he would have to dump Willem ­Alberts or Schalk Burger in favour of Mohojé.

The Ndungane brothers are in the twilight of their rugby careers and Rhule does not look like a quality Test player yet.

Meyer will also definitely not select Lusaseni instead of Flip van der Merwe, Bakkies Botha or Eben Etzebeth when he is fit.

Sithole will have to prove that he is a better centre than Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh and Bok captain Jean de Villiers if Meyer selects Frans Steyn at inside centre.

And imagine this: having Mbonambi instead of Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss or Schalk Brits.

What more could Meyer have done? Perhaps to have started with Mvovo on the wing against Wales with J.P. Pietersen as outside centre. But that would have meant that either Mvovo or Habana would have played right wing, which is not their normal position.

In any case, the right wing berth was taken by a coloured player, Cornal Hendricks.

Kolisi’s playing standard at the Stormers is not as good as it was last year and consequently he is not in the running for the Bok team. He should probably rather move to open side flank where Meyer is looking for someone who could create some momentum with the ball in the hand.

Would you choose Kolisi instead of Louw? Hoskins would also not.

Maybe Hoskins should provide an explanation as to why he would not agree to an interview for the purposes of this article.

Another question to be asked is where the next generation of black players will come from.

There was not one black ethnic player in the starting line-up of the SA U20 team, which recently played in the final of the Junior World Cup tournament in New Zealand.

Joseph Debar (hooker), Victor Skeet (lock) and Mthokozisi Mkhabela (scrumhalf) were all on the reserve bench.

Saru should explain why ethnic black players seemingly do not take the step from junior to senior level.

A question to Saru whether there has been any research on this topic was referred to provincial coaches and their respective executive officers.

A few observations concerning Saru competition regulations: there is no quota system applicable to the U19 and U21 levels. However, in the Community Cup tournament each team must include five players of colour of whom three must be in the starting line-up.

There is no regulation that determines how many of these players must be coloured or “ethnic blacks”.

The Vodacom Cup regulations determine that each group must include seven players of colour, of whom at least two must be forwards and five in the starting line-up.

In the Currie Cup series, it is expected, similar to the selection for the provinces’ U19 and U21 series, that Saru’s transformation aims be considered. This is very vague.

The youth weeks work as following: a minimum of 50% players of colour for the Grant Khomo and Academy group weeks.

At least 10 of the 22 players in each team for the U13 Craven Week must be of colour and at least nine players for the U18 week. That figure is often higher based on merit.

But again, no mention is made of “ethnic black” players.

There is a view that a quota system creates a comfort zone. A player knows that based on his skin colour, he will be included in a team, and as a result, his work ethic and consequently his long-term future take a dip.

There is also the issue of background. It is a generalisation, but many white kids grow up with better facilities and have a competitive advantage right from the start.

When the playing field in terms of education and facilities are equal, we find a player such as Habana who becomes the best in his position in the world.

There is also a viewpoint that there should be a system of “mentoring” by former Boks, who can support young players of colour.

Whatever is said, it is clear that the South African system does not cultivate “ethnic black” players.

And it is obvious that the solution does not rest in Meyer’s hands.

As leader of Saru it is Hoskins who is responsible for that.

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