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Cosatu slams rugby’s ‘white boys club’

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Victor Matfield wears the camouflaged "riot squad skull cap". Photo: Carl Fourie

Durban - Controversy is brewing around the Springbok rugby squad with Cosatu calling the make-up of the team a “white boys club”, who were “over-represented by white players even though there are many great black players in the squad”.

He said the “arrogance of the white boys club” is evident in the fact that veteran lock, Victor Matfield wore an “old South African riot squad skull cap” during the matches against Scotland and Wales.

In a statement, Cosatu Western Cape secretary, Tony Ehrenreich called for Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to intervene “more decisively” in rugby as the sports administrators were dragging their feet in transforming the squad.

“The old boys club in rugby still control things in the same way they always have and they manage their public relations to reinforce this,” Ehrenreich said.

“The coach (Heyneke Meyer) is always presented as now fixing the problems that Pieter de Villiers caused, to undermine the latter, yet we are bringing back old players when there are existing new ones around. The team on the field is still over-represented by white players, even though there are many great black players in the squad.

Speaking on Thursday, CEO of SA Rugby, Oregan Hoskins said he was in Antanarivo in Madagascar when contacted by the Daily News for comment.

He said he was unaware “of what was going on”.

When told by the Daily News of Cosatu’s statement he said: “I am not going to comment. You are telling me stuff for the first time”.

Asked if he thought Matfield’s head gear was appropriate, he said,” I am not going to comment. I am in Antananarivo (Madagascar) for Rugby World Cup qualifiers to determine which African country is going to go through to the World Cup next year. I need to find out from organisation what is happening”.

In an SMS to the Daily News, Springbok Media Manager, De Jongh Borchardt said they would not be responding to Cosatu’s statement.

The camouflaged “riot squad skull cap” is the same head gear the veteran lock uses during the Blue Bulls Super 15 campaign as it matched the teams camouflage jersey.

Ehrenreich said that during last Saturday match against Scotland in which the Boks won 55-6 black players were only brought on in the last five minutes, “even though the Springboks are comfortably ahead”.

“This is because the coach is scared that the black players will outshine the white players, if they get lots of game time.

“Even when players go off for injury, they are rushed back on because the black replacements may shine,” he said.

Ehrenreich said it was time to take decisive steps in respect of rugby and to stop pandering to the old boys club.

“The powers in the game are money and the big sponsors who are able to put money in the game because of the tax breaks that National Government gives them. Government should also put their foot down in respect of the DSTV stranglehold in relation to the coverage of many aspects of South African Rugby. There is a need for a comprehensive new deal in Rugby and most sports codes and Government must act decisively in respect of advancing it and not pander to the white establishment.

“Political leadership must act more decisively in advancing a more representative team in all sporting codes, as they have all the tools for achieving this at their disposal,” he said.

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