Demographic dilemmas of SA rugby

2014-06-15 15:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

In 2004, a young Springbok trotted on to the field in the 70th minute at Twickenham as a replacement in a test against England.

In the 73rd minute, he received the ball for the first time and, with a burst of blinding speed, scored his first try for South Africa.

His name was Bryan Habana – spelt with a “y” after Manchester United legend Bryan Robson. Habana was just 21 and marked himself as a player to keep an eye on. He would make the Springbok No 11 jersey his own and become a legend in the lore of the green and gold.

Fittingly, No 11 was also the jersey worn by Chester Williams, and Habana would go on to emulate the “black pearl of SA rugby”. But South African rugby is still searching for its next great black Springbok.

A young man called Cornal Hendricks is the latest to be thrust into the spotlight. The 26-year-old was last year’s Sevens Player of the Year and made his test debut in Durban yesterday.

Will he make it and become a household name like Williams and Habana? Or will he be a shooting star like so many before him?

The quest to transform the Springboks through the application of the awful but perhaps unavoidable quota has resulted in too many players being given a sniff of glory only for the big chance to evaporate.

Some were picked too soon. Others have been struck down by injuries, perhaps because they were not yet ready for the hurly-burly of test rugby. A good few were found to be not good enough and, too often, the need to satisfy government’s equity demands resulted in quasi selections.

A case in point is Chiliboy Ralepelle*, first selected by Jake White in 2006. Unable to cement a regular match day place, Ralepelle moved to Toulouse last year. He earned 21 caps but only two as a member of the starting line-up and there can be little argument his potential was stunted by being thrown in among the big boys too soon.

Jake White, under pressure to include more black players, gave Ralepelle his debut at the age of 20 but Heyneke Meyer, then coach of the Bulls, was not in favour of the selection as he felt Chili was too young. “Give him time,” said Meyer, “and he’ll captain the Springboks.”

Yet Meyer has been forced to go down the same road. The current coach has included loose forward Teboho Mohoje and centre S’bura Sithole on the promising evidence of their first seasons in Super Rugby. But only time will tell whether the pair will become regulars in the squad or whether their elevation is window dressing to improve the demographics.

Players like Elton Jantjies, Bjorn Basson, Raymond Rhule and Lionel Mapoe have come and gone under Meyer while Scarra Ntubeni’s involvement ceased due to injury.

Peter de Villiers and Jake White also wrestled with the conundrum. De Villiers called up the likes of Brian Mujati, Jongi Nokwe, Earl Rose, Ashley Johnson, Bandise Maku and Davon Raubenheimer. Under White, Hanyane Shimange, Kabamba Floors, Bevan Fortuin and the tragic Solly Tyibilika (eight caps as the No 6 flank) fell through the cracks.

Former Zimbabwean Tendai Mtawarira with 53 caps is the most-capped black Springbok forward, followed by prop Lawrence Sephaka – the current Springbok women’s coach – with 24.

Others such as Gcobani Bobo, Tonderai Chavhanga, Tim Dlulane, Kaya Molotane, Thando Manana, Owen Nkumane and the Ndungane twins Akona and Odwa were given chances but never fully committed to or were considered to be the best in their positions.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


6 myths about male cancer

It is important to be aware of the most prevalent cancer diseases amongst men in our country.


You won't want to miss...

Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
10 best dressed men of 2017
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.