A group calling itself Springbok Supporters for Transformation plans to start a radical programme of mass action that will include the withdrawal of funding and sponsorships for the national team. Lead by trade federation Cosatu, they have vowed that should the Springbok World Cup squad announcement on Friday fail to meet the appropriate transformation expectations, the union will take action on the matter. The group will protest at Springbok games played in South Africa and will send people overseas to arrange protests at the Springbok’s World Cup games.
The threat comes amidst concerns that players of colour who are in form continue to be omitted from national team duty, an issue seen as a blight on the country’s plans for transformation in the sport.
Cosatu met with several rugby clubs in the City of Cape Town on Wednesday to address why effective transformation is still not bearing fruiting in local rugby, as well as what needs to be done to achieve these objectives.
Provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich has strongly criticised the management on the part of the South African Rugby Union (Saru), coach Heyneke Meyer’s policies as well the team selection panel. Government was also accused of not doing its bit to ensure black players in form were actually making the team.
Much of the concern stems from the expected selection to the World Cup squad of inside centre, Jean De Villiers who has spent a considerable portion of the past year on the injury table. This comes despite black players in a similar position showing great form, warranting their inclusion.
Ehrenreich said the recent matches against Argentina put to bed arguments that players of colour are simply not up to the grade required to play for the Springboks.
“When we had the majority white team playing the Argentinians they lost hopelessly, but when we had the majority black team playing they won. Clearly it has been shown, as it has been shown in the Super 15 that the club that is the most transformed in SA, the Stormers had the best results,” he explained.
Cosatu are expected to level a list of demands to Saru management, including that black players should not receive call ups to the team only to “warm the bench”. Instead, should their form warrant it such players should be given game time.
“We think that what we’ve got to see is much greater transformation because clearly, this year especially we have much more skilled, talented and form black players available for selection,” he told VOC Breakfast Beat.
Ex-Saru player and current principal of Spine Road High, Riyaad Najaar said the rugby fraternity were extremely disillusioned that while most of the talented players at school and junior provincial level were from previously disadvantaged communities, this was not being reflected at national level.
“It has been like that for the past ten years now. Our children do not get the opportunities, and if you don’t get them you’ll never get a look in. There is still a concerted attempt to keep it (SA rugby) completely white,” he said.
He stressed that the skill level amongst players of colour were right up there with the best, but the style of rugby being played at national level was effectively denying such youngsters the opportunity.
“If you look at the New Zealand players you don’t find them so bulky and yet they play for 80 minutes non-stop. The type of rugby the South Africans are intent on playing is actually destroying the beautiful game of rugby, because it is just a kick and hammer game,” he declared.
Najaar echoed the call of Ehrenreich for serious change in South African rugby, especially in regards to national team selection policies. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)