‘SA Rugby had better transform’

2015-03-29 15:00

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Mbalula issues warning before SA puts in bid to host 2023 World Cup

The intention of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) to bid for the 2023 rugby World Cup will flounder unless transformation targets are met, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula warned in an interview with City Press.

“We have explained very clearly that if a federation does not meet certain standards in transformation, it will be very difficult for government to support its bid,” said Mbalula.

“The status quo as it stands is not favourable, because there are many things that have not been done [regarding transformation] over the years.”

Earlier this month, Saru said it wanted to put in a bid to host the tournament, which was last held in South Africa in 1995.

Responding to Mbalula’s remarks, Saru CEO Jurie Roux reaffirmed the union’s commitment to bring the tournament back to South Africa, provided there was support from government and approval was obtained from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

“We will follow strict protocol and rally government and Sascoc support as per the agreed procedures with government,” said Roux.

“In terms of the bidding timelines, we have to confirm our intention to tender in June next year – when we will have convinced government we are a horse of the right colour and one that deserves backing.”

However, Mbalula has added a rider on the state of rugby’s transformation.

“I’m not at a stage where I am supporting the bid or not because I don’t have it on my table,” he said.

Saru, whose bid to stage the 2011 rugby World Cup failed when the tournament was awarded to New Zealand, received a boost this week when the portfolio committee on sport and recreation expressed support for its strategic transformation plan.

“The committee welcomes the commitment to increase black participation in all Saru’s national teams, management and board to 50% by 2019,” said a parliamentary communique.

“The committee will be monitoring this transformation closely, as it is important for Saru’s demographic dimension to be reflective of the country.”

However, a number of concerns were raised regarding the transformation in provincial unions, Saru’s executive council and the board.

The committee also noted the lack of gender representation on Saru’s executive council and management and hoped that transformation would also occur in this area.

When setting out the new transformation plan, Roux revealed that about R500?million had been spent since the unification of the old racially divided SA Rugby Board and Saru bodies since 1992.

Roux pointed out that “Saru has had a black president for 17 years; our executive council is 75% black; we’ve had a black Springbok coach; the leading Springbok try scorer of all time is black [Bryan Habana]”.

But a major concern for rugby administrators must be the fact that if the goals of the transformation plan “to engage with the national coach to increase black player representation to 30% [seven players in a squad of 23], of which two must be black Africans” – were to be applied to the Springboks and Super Rugby teams now, they would not pass muster”.

The last few Springbok teams named by coach Heyneke Meyer fell short of those targets in terms of their demographic make-up and all the teams campaigning in Super Rugby at present – except the Stormers – would be found wanting.

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