Sharks Rugby chief Dr Eduard Coetzee receives his doctorate in leadership at UKZN. Photo: Supplied
Sharks Rugby chief Dr Eduard Coetzee receives his doctorate in leadership at UKZN. Photo: Supplied

OPINION: Eduard Coetzee, the champion of transformation

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Feb 21, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – Siya Kolisi once again inspired at the annual Laureus Sporting Awards when representing the Springboks as the winner of the global sports team of 2019.

It was a magnificent moment.

Take a bow all concerned.

For most, this would be the rugby story of the week, perhaps even of the year, but the story that wasn’t in any mainstream media publication and certainly wasn’t in any rugby-orientated digital, social media or print platform was the one in which the New Frame profiled Sharks chief executive Eduard Coetzee as the “Champion of Transformation”.

Coetzee, schooled at Afrikaans Hoërskool in Pretoria (Affies), played for the Sharks and then spent eight years in France. He married into an English family, he is fluent in French, naturalised in France and all three of his kids were born in France.

But he is back in South Africa by choice, at the helm of the Sharks and, within six months of his tenure, has led a revolution when it comes to transformation.

Please go online and read the full New Frame interview with Coetzee. If it doesn’t inspire you, doesn’t make you want to make a contribution to a beautiful and happy South Africa and doesn’t instil in you a belief of what is possible, then best you get help.

Coetzee’s interview, so candid, raw and mesmerising is the rugby story of 2020.

Finally, there is a chief executive within SA Rugby’s professional landscape who actually gets it, who actually believes it, lives it and is taking the belief and turning it into a reality.

I am a disciple of Stormers coach John Dobson. He lives transformation, believes it is the only way to live in South Africa and his Stormers squad embodies Dobson’s philosophy that when you think the Stormers, think #TrueColours a squad true to themselves, to their province, their region, their community and the collective that makes the Western Cape so special.

In Kwazulu-Natal, Coetzee is something unique when it comes to a Super Rugby chief executive embracing transformation.

He declared that the most common language among all players in the Sharks is English, so that is the language spoken within the squad. He also stated, in a 286-page, 90000 word thesis on transformation, that he does indeed see colour and if we never saw colour we could never be inclusive, given the history of South Africa.

Coetzee’s view is that development programmes are disrespectful and racist. AMEN, brother.

Coetzee posted on Twitter: “Receiving plenty of messages on social media around diversity of our team what’s the recipe? We see colour, we celebrate colour! We celebrate diversity and drive inclusivity.”

AMEN, brother.

Within six months of his tenure as CE of the Sharks, Eduard Coetzee (second from left) has led a revolution when it comes to transformation. Photo. Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)

In this most brilliant of interviews with New Frame, Coetzee spoke of transformation not being his taking the sport to people who never knew it, but reigniting the flame for people who always knew it and saying “sorry” and asking: “How do we fix it?”

Coetzee says he left South African rugby for France because he felt he had no future as a white player in the country of his birth. He acknowledges the ignorance of this thinking but stresses that only education can kill off ignorance.

“I needed to do the study because it is research-based. In 1896 a coloured rugby club was formed in Griqualand West. That is a fact; not a story. There are a lot of lies that say coloured and black people never played rugby. A lot of white people believe that and that’s not because they are racist. That’s what we (whites) were taught, which ties back to what I said, that you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Coetzee.

AMEN, Brother.

AMEN, Eduard Coetzee.


Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media

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