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Afriforum’s Kallie Kriel and sports writer Vata Ngobeni debate Saru’s decision to implement racial quotas in the Vodacom Cup.
Government and Saru have failed in developing sport, says Kallie Kriel.
Johannesburg - AfriForum’s objection to the decision by the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to implement strict racial quotas in the Vodacom Cup would be dismissed by some as a pro-white stance and an effort to deny black rugby players entry to the sport.
Let us be frank. Of course white rugby players are disadvantaged by racial quotas. It is a violation of players’ dignity when they are excluded from teams based on the colour of their skin.
The dignity of all South Africans is equally enshrined in the constitution, and to pretend that the dignity of one South African is less important or valid than that of another is discriminatory and polarising. Not to mention unconstitutional.
But quotas hurt more than those excluded by the system – black players are hurt to the same extent.
Under a quota system, the presence of every black rugby player in a team is, by default, suspect – and black players have to work harder than their white peers to validate their inclusion.
This is tragic, as many of these players are hugely talented and committed individuals, and they deserve to be selected. They definitely do not deserve to have their credibility undermined by Saru.
The saddest victim of the quota system, however, is the sport of rugby itself. Provincial rugby unions who suddenly have to comply with the seven-player racial quota will not enter townships overnight with development programmes to develop black players for inclusion in teams.
Development programmes take time to render results, and this route offers no solution for the Vodacom Cup.
The only recourse left to the unions is a quick-fix: “buying” promising black players from the other provinces – meaning that nothing is done to promote rugby in the townships.
Water-cooler talk? Unfortunately not. This is, in fact, already happening in schools rugby.
In the National School Rugby Craven Week series, northern rugby unions such as the Blue Bulls are importing young players from the Western and Eastern Cape on a grand scale.
These kids are enticed with bursaries and other financial incentives to leave their homes and finish their schooling in residences in Gauteng. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the composition of the northern Craven Week teams. The black players are either from the southern provinces, from private schools or former model C schools.
These kids were not developed by the northern teams. To my mind, this practice is unethical and it borders on child labour.
Ultimately, the quota policy is the clearest indication yet that the government and Saru have failed dismally in their duty to develop rugby in South Africa.
Real, valid, meaningful change entails more than one or two photo opportunities where selected journalists take pictures of rugby players doling out rugby balls and T-shirts to children. It is a properly structured and funded long-term plan, with buy-in from all stakeholders. It is one where municipalities honour their duty to create recreational facilities for communities, which include rugby fields.
It is a plan where the departments of education and sport do their part by establishing, promoting and funding rugby in township and “black” schools.
It’s a strategy where Saru and the provincial rugby unions organise coaching so that the undeniable talent in all communities can be tapped, to the advantage of rugby and everyone in the country.
The statement made by Oregan Hoskins, that the decline in the number of black players is “inexplicable”, is in itself inexplicable.
If Saru does not develop young talent, players will not magically make their appearance on university or provincial levels. The quota system is an admission by Saru that it now has to employ a numbers game to hide its failure to do its job. Worst of all, it releases Saru from the obligation to change its priorities.
It is time for rugby fans, and actually all sports fans, to take a stand against a system that does nothing but harm the sport. In this particular instance, there is no fence and silence is not neutral. Silence hands Saru the right to employ the quota system and the ANC to continue interfering in sport.
Silence creates the precedent for the ANC to manipulate every rugby series, including the Currie Cup, Super Rugby and even rugby Tests. And the ANC plays race politics, not sport. The ANC is only interested in numbers, not in merit.
AfriForum is for depoliticising rugby. We want to know that every child running on to a rugby field with his dreams on his sleeve will have an equal opportunity to reach those ideals.
We want to rest assured that the players representing us at university and provincial levels are the best the country has to offer. And one day, when our 15 finest don the green and gold, that’s all we want to see: green and gold, not black and white.
* Kallie Kriel is the chief executive of AfriForum.
A change of administrators and coaches is vital for transformation, says Vata Ngobeni.
Pretoria - When the South African Rugby Union released a press statement announcing the return of racial quotas to the Vodacom Cup, it wasn’t long before the websites, social media and certain rugby administrators were up in arms.
Some of these comments were overflowing with racial overtones fuelled mainly by the right-wing thinking of their authors but I found it increasingly difficult not to agree that these quotas are taking our rugby backwards.
But the truth is rugby in this country has always been used as one of the weapons to defend apartheid while, post- democracy, some of our compatriots are using it to hold on to the ideals of a past utopia that almost sunk our country into a civil war.
Rugby should first stop denying that it is still entrenched in the principles that kept apartheid going in this country for decades and it must also admit that a change of administrators and coaches is needed for the game to be transformed.
I agree that the introduction of racial quotas in the Vodacom Cup will take our rugby backwards as it is just placing a bandage over a gaping wound.
When it was introduced in the late 1990s it was meant to be the competition where black talent was unearthed and fast-tracked to the professional ranks.
However, as the years rolled on and the administrators used the competition, transformation and quotas as part of their election manifestos, the real intention got lost in rugby’s two-faced underworld that serves to enrich a select minority.
Bringing back quotas into the competition is meaningless as nobody watches it at the stadium, while its commercial value on television is small.
If Saru and its General Council, which is made up of all 14 unions’ presidents, is serious about transforming the game then they should enforce racial quotas from school rugby up to the Springbok team.
At the bottom the racial quotas should be greater in number to help swell the lower ranks so that transformation begins from the bottom up.
The truth of the matter is that most of our school teams are transformed as coaches at that level almost have an equal number of black players to select from as white players and within a small community of players it is rather easy to see the best from the rest.
I agree that racial quotas are enforced at all youth weeks under the auspices of Saru, for example the Craven Week and Grant Khomo Week, and contrary to right-wing perception, the standard of rugby has not at all been compromised, instead it has been enhanced.
One only has to look at this year’s under-18 Craven Week in Polokwane where the majority of teams had black flyhalves, a sign that in the lower ranks the game has moved on.
Unfortunately this is not the case at junior interprovincial and national level with many of the black stars from schools rugby bought but never given opportunities to flourish by the unions, especially the big four, Western Province, KwaZulu-Natal (Sharks), Blue Bulls and the Golden Lions.
It is critical that racial quotas are fully implemented at junior provincial level, in the Varsity Cup and for all junior national teams.
Half the starting line-up in these teams should be made up of players of colour and even though the numerical make-up of the starting team is uneven, a number of between six and seven should be agreed on.
This should then translate to the Vodacom Cup and then into the Currie Cup and maybe at Super Rugby level a compromise of at least five players in the starting line-up should be implemented.
It is through such an aggressive and direct stance in racial quotas that rugby will begin to make headway in changing its face to give everyone equal opportunity.
Rugby cannot say it wants to change when every year we watch many black players turn their backs on the game because of the assumption among coaches, administrators and white players that black players aren’t good enough.
This ill-informed perception is worrying as there have been many black schoolboy stars in many traditional rugby playing schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng while the Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo are catching up quickly.
I can understand coaches in the past fearing the “unknown”. But in over 15 years we have produced many black players.
They have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they can play the game and excel in it. Therefore I find no logical reason why coaches are still finding it difficult to trust and select black players based on their ability and not on their colour.
Until rugby shows meaningful change the quota system will have to be enforced.
The time for change has come and all of us need to embrace whether we think it is right or wrong.
* Vata Ngobeni is the sports editor for the Pretoria News and has been a rugby writer for the past 11 years.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.