A breath of fresh air in Saru’s top office

2011-01-15 17:33

New SA Rugby Union (Saru) chief executive Jurie Roux might have been in the hot seat for less than six months but already the former Stellenbosch University chair has, by all accounts, been a breath of fresh air in the corridors of rugby power.

A major criticism of Roux’s predecessors was that while many boasted great ideas about how to tackle some of the sport’s biggest challenges – transformation chief among them – bureaucracy, petty politics and a reluctance to make tough decisions resulted in few plans being implemented. Roux, in contrast, quickly developed a reputation among the game’s powerbrokers as a no-nonsense straight talker and a person who doesn’t dither when it comes to decision-making.

At only 40, he is perhaps more in touch with modern trends and crucially is not weighed down by old grudges – a trap which sports administrators in South Africa, many of them middle-aged and older, seem unable to avoid.

Roux believes the Springboks could field a truly representative team at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, but says things will have to change at school level first for this to happen.

“Every year in South Africa our rugby-playing schools produce large numbers of talented players from all backgrounds and races, so that is not the issue,” he told City Press.

“The challenge we need to face is to make sure those talented black players don’t fall by the wayside or decide to take up immediately lucrative careers.”

Roux said that in the longer term, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s statement this week – that government planned to place schools at the centre of sports development as well as create more opportunities for children who did not currently have the opportunity to play rugby at school – had the potential to be “the single biggest initiative to transform sport”.

Asked what Saru was doing to support school sports, Roux said his organisation planned to unveil a couple of programmes in the near future. “Our Springboks are created at school and, make no mistake, we already have a vibrant schools rugby scene. But later this year we hope to unveil two programmes to significantly assist across the whole spectrum of schools.

“We are busy discussing plans for a nationwide grassroots rugby development programme and for an academy system. These will really help to develop the best young players.”

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