Heyneke Meyer can relax, there won’t be any fireworks on the transformation front any time soon.

2012-04-07 00:00

I WAS genuinely surprised to see one of the Sunday newspapers feature Saru president Oregan Hoskins’s reference to transformation (in his address at the SARU AGM on Friday, March 30), on the front page.

While the report focused on Hoskins’s warning to Saru’s provincial affiliates to heed the call for transformation or face sanction from government, I did not find this to be front page material at all.

How many times have we heard the same old story? The Saru president spelling out the organisation’s position on transformation and explaining its importance to the provincial affiliates, but with absolutely no clear action plan on how to ensure that it actually takes place.

No, in fact, what we have had over the years is a rather laissez faire handling of this societal imperative: only when there’s pressure from outside i.e. sponsors (ABSA in 2011) and government (the national minister of Sport’s recent threat to appoint transformation committees to monitor sport federations), is the president of Saru mobilised into “action”. Barring the odd comment every now and then, a letter (to provincial affiliates in 2011) and a speech (at the 2012 Saru AGM) has been the sum total of the federation’s “actions” to ensure the implementation of transformational objectives at provincial level.

The recent appointment of Heyneke Meyer as Springbok coach, though welcomed by many (including this author), has also been criticised by some for the “secretive” manner in which the appointment was made. While Meyer’s abilities as a coach are well known, he has also attracted a lot of criticism in the past for his apparent disregard for matters transformational.

So while Hoskins’s address at the AGM was aimed at the provincial structures, I would think that it will also serve as a reminder to Meyer that transformation is an unavoidable and integral part of the Springbok coaching job.

Notwithstanding all of the above I still have some good news for the Springbok coach. He shouldn’t worry too much about his president’s warning on transformation or that he will be held to a stricter “quota” for the Springbok team. You see, this has all become part of the political gamesmanship we’ve seen in rugby’s transformational journey (which marks its 20th year this year) up to now. The process of transformation in rugby already started (supposedly) in 1992 when the sport was unified under a new non-racial dispensation (well on paper at least).

Since then we have seen many Sarfu and Saru presidents and Springbok coaches proclaim their commitment to transformation on countless occasions, only to let us down in the end — or just to be replaced by another president or coach that had to start afresh, but ended up with the same results.

So Meyer shouldn’t despair at all. All he has to do is to map out a “clear plan”, pull a few promising black players into his “transformation plan” for the Springbok team over the next four years and he’ll be fine.

After four years of selecting maybe three black players, he can hand over the team to the next coach to follow the same process, like all the other coaches did before him.

This is sadly what “transformation” has become in rugby — a political game of numbers with no genuine plan or commitment from the leaders of the sport to enforce a transformation code or agreement with its provincial affiliates.

You see, this is how it has been playing out: the president of Saru appeals to the provinces and their coaches to transform their teams while it is the province’s prerogative on how they respond to this request as there is no sanction or rebuke for non-compliance.

So the Springbok coach can relax, there won’t be any fireworks on the transformation front any time soon.

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