Saru looks at quota system

2014-04-24 00:00

THE South African Rugby Union will discuss the re-introduction of the quota system into the local game as soon as next month in order to align itself with the demands made by the minister of sport surrounding transformation in the game.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins told that the sport will need to make “radical, drastic, immediate changes” to comply with the pressure being brought upon it by the sports ministry after Saru and other federations met with the government regarding the proposed changes, including a possible re-introduction of quotas into the Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby competitions.

But Hoskins has committed rugby to embracing the changes, and will see them as “a positive” — even though they may not be ideal in the short term.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula threatened to withhold permission for sporting federations to compete internationally if there was not a 60-40 split between black and white players in future representative teams, saying the pace of transformation was too slow among sporting federations.

Hoskins said that rugby “doesn’t have a choice but to comply” and committed all 14 provincial unions and Saru to “meet the challenges as rugby and tackle it head on” to make South Africa proud as a nation.

“With the amount of pressure that we are under now by the minister of sport to change at the highest level, we’ve been told in no uncertain terms that there needs to be a radical, drastic and immediate change,” Hoskins told

“The only way we can effect change is to use the quota system even more extensively than we currently do. This is not the optimum way to transform, it’s a short-term measure and there is no other way to change representation in teams in the immediate short term.

“While it may not be perfect, and not be optimum, there is no other way we can meet the demands of the minister of sport and seriously implement transformation in the Absa Currie Cup and at franchise level.

“We’ve been put under serious threat by government, and we don’t really want to have government intervening in sport. It’s not good for the game, so we have no alternative as a federation but to look at quotas in our senior ranks.”

Hoskins, who did his thesis on transformation in rugby and why the sport loses so much black talent, says rugby needs to break the “glass ceiling” that currently exists for black players.

“There is a glass ceiling for black players,” Hoskins adds, “I’ve researched this in doing my MBA, I’ve spoken to all players across the board and there are a whole lot of reasons why players don’t make it — including coaching and administrators’ perceptions of their abilities and coaches not having the confidence in players in a particular position.”

Hoskins says though that there should not be a quota at national level, with the Springbok team still being picked solely on merit. The Saru president will report back on his meetings with the minister of sport in the next Exco and president’s forum meetings — set for the next month — and expects Saru to embrace the challenge set out by government.

If enough players come through the ranks, then Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will have a great deal more to choose from on merit in making the national side representative of the country as a whole.

“We will be meeting very soon and as Saru we will be embracing these topics. It is a huge challenge but we believe rugby can meet these challenges. We introduced a quota system at Vodacom Cup level and we’ve already seen a new era of players coming through the ranks there. We’ve seen the same in the recent Cell C Community Cup as well.

“I want to underline the fact that we will meet these challenges. These are serious threats but as rugby we will meet the challenge. We are not worried about other federations and we will tackle it head-on and do the best we can to make the whole of South Africa proud.

“At the end of the day we have to work within the framework of government. We don’t have a choice. We are loyal South Africans who love our country and love rugby and we will make it work. I have a commitment from all 14 unions of mine — not one union does not subscribe and we will be united, and work together.

“Rugby already excels in so many areas — in good corporate governance, in sponsorship and financially. Our only challenge is transformation. We don’t want to look at it negatively, we have a lot more going for us and we are part of a wonderful family of rugby in our community. We have our challenges like everyone else, but we will use the solid foundation laid by those in the sport before us, and are proud of all 14 unions. It is a privilege and an honour to be part of the SA Rugby family.”

While Vodacom Super Rugby is part of international agreements, Hoskins adds that the introduction of a possible quota into the second tier competition would not affect these agreements at all. “I think our partners in Australia and New Zealand fully understand our transformation imperatives in bringing in such a system. I don’t agree that it would necessarily weaken the teams, to the contrary it would possibly add a new dimension to the competition.”

Saru introduced a quota system this year to the Vodacom Cup after its own mechanisms determined that the number of black players in rugby was declining.

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