Unions say playing field rugby transformation is hard

2011-08-15 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Rugby unions have been transformed at management level, but it’s “harder” to ensure more diversity on the playing field.

This was the reaction of provincial rugby bosses after South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins said last week that he was dissatisfied that certain teams were still “lily-white”.

Hoskins said he was unhappy that teams in the Currie Cup tournament, the national ­U19 and U21 tournaments were still too white. SARU was also roasted in parliament over its transformation programme.

Hoskins confirmed he had sent a letter to provincial unions a month ago in which he berated them for not having enough black players in this year’s Currie Cup and the SA junior teams contests. “It’s unacceptable that certain unions are still choosing lily-white teams. SARU is committed to transformation, but not all the unions are pulling their weight,” Hoskins said.

However, provincial bosses have defended their transformation programmes.

Herman Abrahams, deputy chief executive of Western Province, admitted “there is a shortage of transformation structures”, while adding in the same breath “our management positions are filled by black people and the critics must not just look at the 15 players who run out of the tunnel.”

He said yearly targets must be set for black players.

“If we widen the intake of black players at the bottom, more players will make it to the senior teams.”

Apparently most fingers were pointed at the northern unions. There were fears that government might impose quotas again as there had not been visible improvement in transformation.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said the union was drafting an official transformation policy following the midweek indaba.

“This is being drafted in conjunction with the Department of Sport and Recreation and we hope talented players of colour will in future be identified through mass participation and go on to play at the highest level.”

Absa, the main sponsor of the Springboks and SARU’s national competitions, this week said their last year’s position — over the slow pace of transformation in rugby — “remains unchanged”.

In the meantime, sources inside SARU’s committee for transformation and development said during a meeting on Wednesday there was concern over transformation failures at provincial level.

Blue Bulls Company chief executive Barend van Graan said they recruited only the best available talent, pointing out that their numbers were 21,7% black players in the U19 team, 18,2% for the U21 side and 18,2% for the senior squads.

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