Rassie Erasmus picked just three black players in the Springbok starting line-up for the Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Pretoria.
He did exactly the same a few weeks before that in Wellington, when the Boks won 36-34 at the Westpac Stadium.
On both those occasions, Erasmus – remember he is also the director of rugby at the SA Rugby Union – defied his own organisation’s company policy on transformation.
That document states that the target for black representation in 2018 was 45 percent, with the goal being 50 percent for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
When Saru president Mark Alexander was questioned about the lack of transformation in the Bok team at the launch of – ironically – the ‘A to Z of Black Rugby’ initiative at the Springbok Experience museum, he batted the issue away by blaming injuries to players such as Lukhanyo Am, Warrick Gelant, Makazole Mapimpi and others.
“If you go to the rehab clinic, you’ll see why – how many of our black players are injured?
“Guys are overplayed, we play too much rugby in this country – way, way too much rugby. From a player welfare point of view, we need to give these guys a recovery period.
“That is why you have all these guys sitting there – Lukhanyo Am can’t go on the end-of-year tour. Trevor Nyakane was injured. I know we have a handful of guys, but the guys are coming through.
“I would worry about our transformation targets if I had to look back at our junior teams and they reflect that we are not transforming – then we have a problem. But look at our schools and Under-20 teams, they are coming through, naturally.”
Alexander went as far as to say that Erasmus “has done a wonderful job as far as transformation is concerned”, while glowing in his praise of the golden nugget – a black Springbok captain in Siya Kolisi.
But the reality is very different.
With the 34-man squad picked for the end-of-year tour to Europe, the expectation was that Erasmus would “up the numbers” for the year by picking more representative teams against England, France, Scotland and Wales.
But that hasn’t been the case. There were four black players against England at Twickenham in the starting XV, and three on the bench.
Against France, it was three at the start and four among the replacements.
What makes matters worse is that apart from the “numbers game”, Erasmus has failed to provide genuine opportunities for some of those black players who are in the match-23.
Starting wings Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi have hardly touched the ball, while Damian Willemse was not allowed to play his natural attacking game against England at fullback.
And what about the ridiculous situation around Embrose Papier, who has had all of five minutes of game time on tour?
Elton Jantjies has made a real difference in the 16 minutes he has been on the field too.
In addition, Sikhumbuzo Notshe has gone from starting against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth to watching from the stands.
So, why is Erasmus being allowed by SA Rugby to ignore their transformation targets?
The Bok coach has another chance to make amends on Thursday, when he names his squad at 4pm SA time to take on Scotland.
Let’s see what Erasmus comes up with this time around…@ashfakmohamed