By Jean-Andre Deenik
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Warrenski
Racial transformation in rugby has become an increasingly difficult issue for the South African Rugby Union (SARU) after both Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Cosatu questioned the current number of black players in the Springbok team.
But what are the facts? How many black Springboks have we produced and which provinces excel when it comes to development?
In a letter addressed to the Cape Times in August of this year, Tutu wrote of his disappointment with the “tortoise pace at which transformation at the highest level is being effected”.
“South Africa deserves a Springbok team representative of the full spectrum of the rainbow that defines us,” said Tutu.
The ‘tortoise pace’ Tutu referred to has resulted in just 45 black players representing the Springboks out of a total of 223 players, over the past 20 years. This is an average of just over two players per year.
Tutu also raised concerns about the black players on the periphery of the Springbok squad, whom are not “given the chance to settle down and earn their spurs”. He then provided the recent example of Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, who was leapfrogged by a ‘paler player’ after spending the previous game on the bench.
Out of the 45 black Springboks, 14 played for less than a year with an average of over three years per player. Of these 14 black players, 80% either started on the bench or didn’t play. Tim Dlulane, Bandise Maku and Oupa Mohoje respectively were selected and have not started for the Springboks.
Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu regional secretary of the Western Cape, claimed that without the political pressure of Cosatu, Bryan Habana would not have played for the national team.
Western Province has been at the forefront of transformation in rugby, having produced over 46% of the black players who have represented the Springboks. Eastern Province, one of the poorest franchises, has also produced a large number of black Springboks while Gauteng, one of the richer franchises has been less than fruitful.
To date, 13 black Springboks were born in the Eastern Cape, nine of whom grew up and attended schools in the province. Six black Springboks, Owen Nkumane, Conrad Jantjes, Lawrence Sephaka, Bryan Habana, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Elton Jantjies grew up in Gauteng. Zimbabwe has produced two more black Boks than the Free State who have produced just one, and yet the province is the country’s largest producer of Springboks overall.
CEO of EP Rugby Charl Crous said the strong rugby culture in the Eastern Cape which has been reinforced in the local schools, provides good platforms for young, black players to develop.
Gauteng, on the other hand, have focused their efforts on development at club level, according to Timmy Goodwin, Manager of Rugby Development for the Lions, adding that “players can’t play rugby without access to facilities”.
On Sunday, SARU president Oregan Hoskins spoke of the new guidelines which will be implemented by 2019, whereby 50% of the Springbok team must contain players of colour of which 60% will have to be black African. According to the guidelines, the Springbok coach must include five black in the squad for the World Cup taking place in England next year.