Don’t mess with the Boks!

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Good friend and Sport24 colleague Rob Houwing made an excellent point this week about the next Springbok coach not being able to liaise with the Super Rugby coaches during the tournament this year given that no one has as yet, actually been appointed to replace Heyneke Meyer.

Others have bemoaned the potential lack of planning and direction due to the delayed appointment. And others the sheer lack of professionalism the delay portrays.

Which would all be valid concerns were this to be a traditional, merit-based appointment aimed at picking the best possible side that South Africa has to offer.

But it’s not.

You would think that coaches around the world would be tripping over themselves to coach one of the top three nations in the world. Especially one that generates enough player talent to power not only six Super Rugby sides, but also enough European sides to upset their national side selections.

But they’re not.

Would you take on a management position in a new company that required 50% of all your staff to be named Smith?

Is that not exactly what we are asking of our national coach?

SARU’s goal is to have 50% black representation in the Springbok team by 2019, and as such, at an informal media gathering late last year, SARU president Oregan Hoskins told us: “Whoever wants to apply for the job (this before they decided not to advertise the position) needs to know that transformation is going to be on top of his agenda, or else he shouldn’t apply."

And how many with the surname Smith?

So if it’s not about picking the best side, and not about winning, does it really matter who we have in that position, and when it is filled? Clearly not.

And it’s the first step taken down a very slippery slope.

You simply cannot task the coach of the highest team in the land with transformation. That is a cop out and an admittance that all other attempts in this arena have failed.

If transformation is such a biggie, and clearly it is, then government, together with SARU, the schools, clubs, universities, provinces, and the franchises must be tasked with giving the Bok coach more players of colour to pick.

Yes, much harder to do, and requires some actual planning. But do it the other way round and it’s nothing more than dastardly window dressing.

This is not about black, white or coloured. This is about not messing with the Springboks.

The French messed with their system by allowing millions of foreigners into their club system, and look where they are now.

Losing to Japan was an embarrassment and made us the laughing stock of world rugby. The warning bell has been rung. Do we really want to be the next France?

Sure we have some wrongs to right in a country where the socio-economic factors are anything but normal. But those we have to combat from the bottom up, not the top down.

National sides simply have to be about high performance only. As a nation, sport is in our blood, and we need our national sides to be strong so they give us hope and belief.

Do not get me wrong - I am not saying the Boks cannot be great when infused with players of colour, or players named Smith (especially if their first names are Juan), I am saying we should not be messing with how we pick the side.

No one remembers who won Super Rugby. Everyone remembers the Bok loss to Japan. Do not mess with the Boks!

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop, current editor of the all new that allows you to rate the SA players, and vociferous Tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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