Cobus Coetzee

RUGBY will be “in peril” if the need for racial transformation in the sport is ignored, says the SA Rugby Union (Saru).

A strategic transformation plan says black players should make up 50 percent of national and provincial sides by 2019, according to details published in Rapport at the weekend.

Saru spokesman Andy Colquhoun said yesterday all 14 member unions approved the plan approved “in principle” on August 13.

The document, also in the possession of the Cape Times, also sets targets to transform Saru’s management. Saru’s aim is that at national level, 40 percent of its managers and 50 percent of coaches will be black in five years.

Saru has shared its plan with the national government and hopes its general council will approve it at its next meeting, to be held before the end of the year.Saru said its plan was “a comprehensive, positive process to address a critical business and socio-economic risk facing rugby – one that to ignore would put the sport at peril”.

On Saturday, the Springbok squad who played Australia in Perth included only two coloured players, Cornal Hendricks and Bryan Habana, and a lone black African player, Tendai Mtawarira.

Trevor Nyakane joined the team on the field from the bench.

Key South Africans have been strongly critical of the lack of transformation in the sport.

Last month, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu criticised Saru for the “tortoise pace” at which transformation was taking place in the national team.

Chester Williams, who was one of the heroes of the 1995 Springbok World Cup triumph and who came out in support of Tutu’s view, said yesterday: “It is about time to transform the sport – it has been 20 years (since the country became a democracy).”

AfriForum, however, is opposed to the plan and says it will contest it as part of the complaint it is lodging with the International Rugby Board about the racial quota system.

Spokesman Kallie Kriel said AfriForum supported rugby development, and wanted everyone to have the opportunity to participate, but added: “A racial quota system disadvantages all talented players of all races”

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesman, Anda Bici, said transformation was of “paramount importance” and Afriforum’s complaint “was neither here nor there”.

The plan says “most of Saru’s provinces have failed to show tangible transformation results”. Saru says four provinces expressed concerns about the cost of implementing the proposals and how the targets should be measured.

However, none of them had opposed the document in principle, Saru said.

Nineteen percent of Springbok players during championship matches are black, while 26 percent of players in SA Super Rugby sides are black and 30 percent of Currie Cup teams are black.

By 2019, half the players in all these teams – at national, Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup levels – must be black.

Under the targets set for next year:

l Seven out of the 23 players in all the Super Rugby teams must be black and five black players must be on the field at all times.

l Eight out of the 23 players in Western Province’s Currie Cup team must be black and a minimum of six black players must be on the field at all times.

Saru has set quota systems for all teams right down to U-18 Craven Week and the amateur teams.

These teams have to abide by the quotas before September 2015.

Southern union teams have higher quota requirements than unions up north. In the Western Province, 35 percent of players must be black while the Lions and Bulls have to have 30 percent black players.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins said yesterday the quotas were higher for southern unions because there were more black players playing the game in this union.

Saru also aims to increase the number of rugby players at primary, high school and community leagues - and to train more referees and coaches.

The plan says that in future 80 percent of all players recruited for Saru academies must be black.