Drop quotas, says Div

2013-08-18 14:00

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Former Springbok head coach describes the rule as ‘cowardly’

Drop the quota system in rugby, it destroys the dignity of black players.

So says former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers who agrees with critics that South Africa’s rugby is still too white at top level despite efforts to make the game more representative.

The latest storm about race in rugby comes after Monday’s decision by the SA Rugby Union (Saru) executive and its transformation committee to bring quotas back because, according to Saru, rugby unions have failed to include enough players from other races in their teams.

Oregan Hoskins, president of Saru, told City Press’s sister publication Rapport on Wednesday that since the quota system was abandoned 10 years ago, the number of players of other races at the top level has decreased significantly.

“There was a target of 35% black players in top-level rugby for this year and 40% next year. We could see the targets were not being met,” he says.

But figures supplied by Saru show no significant difference:

» In the Vodacom Cup Series, black players this year represented 27% of players compared to 26% last year;

» In the Currie Cup, there were 25% black players last year. This year’s figure isn’t known yet because the series has only just started; and

» In the past Super Rugby series, 20% of players were black; 2% more than last year.

» The Springbok team had nine black players last year and 34 white players. In yesterday’s Test team, there were three black players in the starting lineup and two more on the bench.

In terms of Saru’s new quota rules, there must be at least seven black players in each team of 22 players who take part in next year’s Vodacom Cup, of which five must be in the starting lineup. Two of the quota players must be forwards.

De Villiers was on the warpath over the quota decision on Friday and described it as “cowardly” that previous targets had not been met. He also says there are too many loopholes in the rules.

There is already a target in Super Rugby to include eight black players in the squad of 30.

“Why were the previous rules not enforced?” he questioned.

De Villiers says rugby cannot always remain a “white bastion” and that transformation is therefore not taking place. “We have a black president and vice-president. There is someone in charge of transformation. Why doesn’t he tell them what to do?”

The fact that good players do not reach the upper levels is because of the integrity of the people in charge, he says.

“It destroys the image of black players if they are always seen as quota players.”

De Villiers believes some coaches will comply with the new quota requirements, but that they will take black players off the field within 10 minutes if it is not clearly stipulated that five of them must remain on the field until the final whistle.

Brian van Rooyen, former Saru president, agrees with De Villiers that work should rather be done from grassroots level to create representative teams.

Says Van Rooyen: “I have never advocated quotas and yet a Bok team with seven black players in the starting lineup won the Mandela Cup against Australia at Ellis Park in 2005.”

That same year, a representative under-21 team won the World Cup with De Villiers as coach. Van Rooyen, who was the nation’s rugby boss from 2003 until 2006, said transformation had deteriorated. He believes the latest quota decision is a “step in the right direction”, but that it will have to be applied correctly.

Meanwhile, Pumas president Hein Mentz said the quota proposal was not accepted at a decision-making meeting, “it was only a discussion forum”.

Saru spokesperson Andy Colquhoun said the decision has been confirmed by the executive.

Mentz says he fully supports transformation in rugby, but that the Pumas do not have enough black players to meet the new requirements. He adds that Saru’s executive was being dishonest if it said all 14 unions were fully behind the proposed quota system.

Other unions like Griquas and Western Province say they are ready for the new measures.

Lindsay Mould, president of the Free State Rugby Union, indicated that Saru members were meeting the Free State management on Friday to discuss the issue.

Hoskins says he was aware of the Pumas’ objections. “They have legitimate objections. If they had no black players in their team, I would have said they were just looking for excuses. But they are really making an effort, and we will help them.”

He says the Vodacom Cup’s primary objective at the time was to assist developing players – black and white – who would not get opportunities through the normal system. “But it has lost its focus.”

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