PRETORIA - Yes, it is painful to deal with the disappointment of not winning the right to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but I also believe it should serve as a wake-up call to South Africa.
Obviously, there was no better host between France, Ireland and South Africa than the country in the southernmost tip of Africa but rugby is a cruel sport. It is cruel because the voting countries failed to do the right thing and hand the hosting rights to the deserving country.
The infrastructure in South Africa is the best of the three nations courtesy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup and it would have been the most profitable one for World Rugby considering the number of tickets that would have been available.
From a tourism perspective again South Africa would have been the perfect host nation with its varying attractions that have millions descending on the country every year. But South Africa’s biggest flaw was their inability to garner enough support around the world and convince the rest of the rugby world that it was Africa’s time again.
The reality is that the loss of the World Cup bid surely should give SA Rugby an opportunity to look at itself in the mirror and begin the process of making the game accessible to the millions of South Africans that love it but are constantly shunned.
For far too long rugby has been a divisive sport in this country and even after the euphoria and short-lived nation building of the 1995 World Cup, rugby has dismally failed to capture and exploit the majority because of its refusal to change and do the right thing.
If there ever was a time to do the right thing it would be now so that all of its structures are fully representative of the people of the country.
In all honesty, I don’t think much has changed in the sport after 1995 and even though there have been two black coaches in Peter de Villiers and Allister Coetzee, they, along with black players, are the exception instead of the norm.
Twenty-two years after that memorable World Cup, the first on African soil, we are still talking transformation, even after the countless success stories of black rugby players who have played for the Springboks and at Super Rugby, Currie Cup and junior international level.
We are still counting the number of black players that are in the Springbok team and always looking to justify their place and worthiness in the team.
We are still in shock at the lack of black players in Super Rugby and Currie Cup and the same excuse of “it needs to start at grassroots” is given for the thousands of black players that are not given an opportunity to progress beyond age group provincial rugby.
And even after the Springbok Sevens team have debunked the myth of there not being enough good black players, many within the rugby landscape still have the temerity to call black players “quota selections” and not looking at them for what they are, rugby players.
One still is shocked beyond words to see that there are still no black head coaches and assistant coaches amongst the Super Rugby franchises and Currie Cup premier division sides.
If there are any black coaches coming up the ranks, there is seemingly a concerted effort from the bosses at the unions not to support these coaches and to ensure that they remain as assistants or head coaches at age group level only.
The same applies to refereeing and the slow pace with which black referees are handed the same opportunities as their white counterparts. One can still count on one hand the number of black referees that have blown a Currie Cup final been elevated to Super Rugby let alone tier one Test refereeing.
In the disappointment and pain of losing the World Cup, let SA Rugby and the government make sure that something good comes out of this and that we make rugby a game for all our people.