Time to embrace transformation

2007-10-28 20:47

Jannie Momberg

Os du Randt walked off the field at the end of the Rugby World Cup final against England straight into the history books.

Not only is Du Randt a legend in the annals of this country's rugby for his playing prowess, but he was - along with Percy Montgomery - the last player to play in an all-white Springbok team.

The last such team will not be fondly remembered by Springbok fans as they lost to Wales on June 26, 1999 in the official opening of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

It is surely the time to ask if the 2007 World Cup final will be the last time that South Africa take to the field with only a couple of black wings. Will this be the last non-representative team to play for this country?

In the past few days it has been mentioned by commentators and fans that now is the time to stop the "political interference" in rugby. This pie in the sky thinking is based on the fact that the Springboks won the World Cup and everything will be okay with the Webb Ellis Cup back in South Africa.

Rugby is a national sport and belongs to all South Africans. It does not exist in an 'island' outside the rest of society. Whether some rugby supporters like it or not, the pressure to transform the national team will not go away.

Not fair

Most reasonable people would agree transformation is necessary in South African sport due to our unique history. What form this transformation should take - in particular when looking at the selection of national teams - is the sticking point.

It's surely not fair to insist that the Springbok coach pick six or seven black players - for argument sake - if the SA Super 14 teams only fielded a total of 28 black players in this year's competition.

Springbok Under-21 coach Pieter de Villiers, who is vying for the senior coaching position, has been quoted as saying that there are more than 40 black players good enough to play for the Springboks. Why aren't they playing Super 14 rugby?

It is in the interest of Springbok rugby and South Africa as a whole that this pool of players is drastically increased to give the national coach more leeway with selection.

The time has come for SA Rugby to bite the bullet to ensure a representative Springbok team. Quotas should be introduced for all representative teams below the national side.

Pool of players

Take the Super 14 as an example.

It should be compulsory to start with five black players in all games. This would ensure a minimum of 25 players playing every week against some of the best opposition in the world. The pool of players to pick from for the Springboks would within months increase to 50 at the very least.

Jake White has selected 16 black Springboks out of a total of 36 new caps in his four years in charge. All things being equal White has tried manfully - despite some criticism - to increase the representatively of the national rugby team.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins said recently: "The lack of progress is not the national coach's fault, I think it's the administrators who are at fault and we have to take responsibility for that. I look forward to 2011, if we do our homework - and I believe we will".

The survival of the Springbok emblem might depend on how successful Hoskins and his colleagues are.

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