JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 14, Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula during the Launch of the I Play Fair campaign at Park Hyatt Hotel on June 14, 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa Photo by Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

The government is to plough R525 million into a mass participation sports programme in a bid to break down the barriers preventing disadvantaged children from developing into world-class athletes.

Sketching the plan during his budget vote debate yesterday, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said SA must follow the example of Australia, and embark on a 20-year plan of focusing on school sports if it wanted to drastically change the sporting landscape.

“We can’t expect our rugby team to produce the results we demand when our young people in the townships are not playing rugby… and when children in Model C schools are enjoying advantages in coaching which they do not enjoy,” Mbalula told Parliament.

A priority of his department was to develop and unlock the potential grassroots talent, to nurture such talent and sports skills, and to “ultimately produce athletes with an international competitive edge”.