Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier has experienced the same lack of game time as Rudy Paige. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Let’s get straight to the point – in the two biggest Springbok Tests this year, against the All Blacks, there have only been three black players in the starting line-up.

Three, in 2018, which is simply unacceptable when you look at the SA Rugby Union’s transformation policy.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, having doubled up as the director of rugby, said all the right things at the start of his tenure.

“I am of the opinion that we must stop talking around racial transformation. We must talk about it,” he said before the England series in June.

“The target is 45 percent this year, measured over the 14-Test season, and if I do not reach the mark, I have failed to reach one of my key performance indicators.

“If I do not make the 45 percent target, I will be in trouble. We must see it like that. It is what it is, and we must work around that.”

So, a necessary evil, then. Erasmus struck gold by naming Siya Kolisi as the first ever black Springbok captain, and it was met with the expected glee from all corners of the rugby community.

And Erasmus even put his money where his mouth was during the three England Tests and the one-off game against Wales.

There were seven black players in the starting line-up and four on the bench in Washington, which was above the envisaged 45% mark in the match-15 and match-23.

The trend largely continued against England, with six black players starting the first two Tests and seven in the third at Newlands, although the bench numbers dropped to three, two and two.

Once the Rugby Championship started, things went further south. 

Five black players started in the first three games, with just three against New Zealand in Wellington, five in the Wallaby Test in Port Elizabeth, and now again three for the Loftus showdown against the All Blacks on Saturday.

Those are just the bare statistics of team selection, but take a closer look, and the situation is dire when you look at what really matters – game time.

Scrumhalf Embrose Papier is a reincarnation of Rudy Paige, Elton Jantjies suddenly took a back seat to Handré Pollard after producing arguably his best Bok display in Brisbane, and Damian Willemse is gathering splinters on the bench too.

Damian Willemse has not received many opportunities for the Boks in 2018. Photo: Hernan Barrios/BackpagePix

Lionel Mapoe also continues to take a backseat to Jesse Kriel at outside centre.

Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been banished to the bench this week after making a solid first start in Port Elizabeth, and Bongi Mbonambi was hauled off in Brisbane after 35 minutes of a Test match.

Yes, there has been the mitigating factor of injuries to the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Warrick Gelant, but others such as Dillyn Leyds and Curwin Bosch have been overlooked.

Apart from those black players in the squad who are not getting a meaningful chance to prove themselves, the likes of Juan de Jongh and Nizaam Carr have been ignored too.

So, while ‘Rassiephoria’ has engulfed SA rugby following the wins over the All Blacks and Wallabies, Erasmus has regressed on the transformation front – to the extent that we are again sitting with the “two wings and one forward” scenario in a match that really matters at Loftus, with Aphiwe Dyantyi and Cheslin Kolbe out wide, and Kolisi at flank.

How can that be okay in 2018?

Springbok Team

15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi 10 Handré Pollard 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Francois Louw 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Malcolm Marx 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi 17 Tendai Mtawarira 18 Vincent Koch 19 RG Snyman 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe 21 Embrose Papier 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Damian Willemse.

 

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