We need to get the crowds back to Newlands, says Zelt Marais. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Zelt Marais, who chairs the Western Province Rugby Football Union’s finance committee, is a long-serving member of the Executive Committee (since 2006).

In 2012, he was elected as WPRFU Vice President, before being elected as Deputy President in 2016.

The University of Cape Town graduate – who is also a member of Elim Renaissance Investment Trust – has also served on the board.

Marais is in the running for the WP presidency against Springbok selector Peter Jooste.

Outgoing president Thelo Wakefield’s successor will be voted in at the Annual General Meeting on Monday.

“We can pride ourselves on being the most transformed union in South Africa,” Marais said.

“As a leading union, we’ve got a lot more to do. SA Rugby has got their transformation charter, but we must remember that transformation is not an event, it’s a journey.

“We should actually set the bar, and although SA Rugby have their charter, I think we’re falling a bit short.

“I’d like to see how our schools rugby, especially in the historically disadvantaged areas, can be improved.

“It’s a must, even if we have to create certain hubs and structures. It worked in the past, but it was discontinued.

“And it should be similar with our smaller club structure. But importantly, we need to get those players conditioned and nutritioned, you can’t compromise on that.

“Our government needs to come on board, because remember, it was our government that destroyed sport in schools.

“If this was in the United States, we would have had a class action against them. So, they’ve got a duty to come on board.”

Marais, who heads WP’s finance committee, also highlighted the importance of getting the right players in and ensuring total transparency when it comes to dealing with their current player surplus.

“We need to bring in the right mix of players because at the moment, there is a surplus of players in the system, and there was an instruction from SA Rugby on what to do in terms of it,” he said.

“But we are a bit slow in terms of introducing things. There are a number of players on contract in terms of it, but if we can negotiate and speak to people, they will understand the crisis rugby is facing.

“We shouldn’t pretend. People will trust you if you’re honest and lay down the facts.”

In recent years, match-day crowd attendances have been a bleak sight, particularly at Currie Cup level. And ensuring a spike in traffic to Newlands is another matter Marais wants to address.

Zelt Marais wants the government to play a greater role in facilitating school's rugby. Photo: Samuel Theron via Facebook

“Mr Wakefield probably found himself in a very difficult position because during his tenure, the whole rugby landscape changed,” he said.

“There was a major transition where many of the players left – and one should maybe put the blame on SA Rugby for allowing players to go play overseas – and that diluted teams to such an extent where you had players on short-term basis, so your turnover of players was so much.

“You need to plan better because this wave is just going to get worse, unless SA Rugby put on the brakes.

“If you look at the crowd attendances over the last couple of years... we need to get the crowds back. We need to think out of the box. We need to get all the clubs and schools back.

“From a club rugby perspective, playing on a Saturday when your provincial team is also playing should be a no-no. We need to completely reverse it because you need everybody on board.”

@WynonaLouw


Cape Times

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