Siya Kolisi of the Stormers during the 2015 Super Rugby game between the Stormers and the Brumbies at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town on 20 June 2015 ©Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Siya Kolisi of the Stormers during the 2015 Super Rugby game between the Stormers and the Brumbies at Newlands Stadium, Cape Town on 20 June 2015 ©Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Mbalula is right about transformation

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Apr 26, 2016

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It was inevitable. How dare Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula do his job and hold sports federations accountable to targets they had agreed upon with regards to transformation…

The expected outcry to Mbalula’s decision to revoke the right of four federations – Athletics South Africa, Cricket South Africa, Netball South Africa and the South African Rugby Union – to bid for future international events, due to their failure to adhere to a transformation agreement, came out in full force on social media and the established media.

Unfortunately, one of our cricketing greats, Jacques Kallis, put his foot in it in voicing his displeasure with Mbalula’s move by tweeting (@jacqueskallis75): “So sad that i find myself embarrassed to call myself a South African so often these days #no place for politics in sport”

For someone like Kallis – who benefited from endless opportunities to establish himself in the Proteas team at the start of his career despite several failures – to speak out against a policy that aims to provide all South Africans with the same, equal chance is disingenuous and insensitive.

Mbalula is right when he says the federations “have committed to the targets and if they don’t meet the targets, we will not support them”.

Why should the government back SA Rugby to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, for example, if Rudy Paige gets three minutes off the Springbok bench at last year’s World Cup?

Or Siya Kolisi and Lwazi Mvovo being ignored in their specialist positions for Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jesse Kriel, who both played out of position?

Or Elton Jantjies not making the Bok squad when he was clearly the best South African flyhalf in Super Rugby last year?

And in cricket, Aaron Phangiso continually carries the drinks? Or Khaya Zondo gets picked for an ODI tour to India, and when there is an injury, Dean Elgar is flown in from South Africa to play in the series decider ahead of Zondo?

Those scenarios have played themselves out far too often in our sporting landscape, and enough is enough. Players of colour have had to spend the last 22 years since the birth of our democracy having to prove themselves to be twice as good as other players to retain their places in teams.

Hashim Amla was hounded out of the Proteas team due to an apparent technique issue because of his high, flowing back-lift. He had to spend over a year on the sidelines, proving himself for his province once more instead of being allowed to grow and establish himself at Test level, like Kallis was. And look at him now…

There are many such examples, and that kind of mindset has to change within our sporting federations. They have been given an easy ride up to now, and it’s by time that Mbalula takes the gloves off and tackles this problem head-on.

And yes, there may be a tinge of electioneering to all of Mbalula’s bluster. But making such a remark misses the point completely.

This step should’ve been taken a long time ago. The government has given federations more than enough time to transform, and they have failed to adhere to their own agreed-upon measurements.

The only way they will really take transformation seriously is by withdrawing government support for major events, which the minister has warned the federations of previously, but which wasn’t taken seriously at the time.

Of course the government can do more to improve municipal sporting facilities in our communities, and provide essential services at grassroots level.

But there are youngsters of all races coming through the ranks anyway, due to the unbelievable commitment and dedication of administrators, teachers and coaches at schools and clubs all over the country.

The problem comes in at a higher level as they aren’t being nurtured on an equal footing when moving on to senior teams, and therein lays the problem.

And please, don’t insult us by that tired, old line of “Where’s the transformation in the Bafana Bafana team?”. Since 1992, the national men’s team have had nine white head coaches out of 17, and captains in Neil Tovey and Dean Furman.

There is a long line of other white players as well in Mark Fish, Eric Tinkler, Bradley Carnell, Roger de Sa, Gavin Lane, Matthew Booth, Hans Vonk and Pierre Issa, and more recently Furman, Matthew Pattison, Bradley Grobler, Dillon Sheppard, Darren Keet and Marc van Heerden.

And guess who are our Banyana Banyana captain and coach who will lead our ladies to the Rio Olympics? Captain fantastic Janine van Wyk and Vera Pauw, both white – with Pauw hailing from The Netherlands.

Cricket is probably ahead of rugby, athletics and netball in terms of providing opportunities to players of colour at a senior provincial level, but more can still be done.

Rugby has been bold by appointing Allister Coetzee as their second black Springbok coach, and by including Mzwandile Stick as an assistant to learn the ropes from Coetzee. But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the Bok team will be fully transformed, as we experienced when Peter de Villiers was the coach.

But Coetzee had a proud transformation record at the Stormers and Western Province and fully understands what is required.

It is up to the federations now to create a situation where they go beyond the set targets and create environments within national and senior provincial teams where black players don’t feel the need to have to continuously look over their shoulders and fear being dropped after one or two failures.

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@IndyCapeSport - Independent Media

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