SA Rugby Union president Mark Alexander is adamant that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is doing a “wonderful job” with transformation.
Alexander was speaking on Thursday at the Springbok Museum, where a special section to reflect the history of black rugby was launched, entitled “A to Z of Black Rugby”.
While appealing for former players and administrators to come forward with old pictures, documents and other memorabilia that will showcase non-racial rugby from the past, Alexander was asked about the present-day situation in the Springbok team.
Erasmus has been issued with targets of 45 percent representation (10 or 11 in a match-23) by the end of the current season, and 50 percent (12 in a match-23) by next year’s World Cup in Japan.
The Bok coach made a good start against Wales in June, with 11 black players (seven starting), and nine, eight and nine in the three England Tests.
But in the Rugby Championship, five started in the two Argentina games and the first Wallaby Test, and then there were just three black players in the starting XV against the All Blacks in Wellington and Pretoria, and five against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
“We’ve made a lot of strides as far as transformation is concerned. There is still a lot we have to do, and we always get blamed for not doing enough – but we will get there,” Alexander said.
“Rassie has done a wonderful job as far as transformation is concerned. I think he has the most players ever to play in a Springbok team.
“We have a black Springbok captain, but this is long overdue. It’s not something that must come because of transformation.
“It must come naturally, because the players are good enough to be there. And all the players who play in that team are not there because they are quotas. They are there because they deserve to be there. They are quality players.
“You can name any one of the Springbok players who have played in the last year – they are not quotas, man.”
Asked why only three black players started in both All Black Tests, Alexander blamed injuries.
Lukhanyo Am, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Warrick Gelant were all injured at the time, but there were many other alternatives Erasmus could’ve considered.
Dillyn Leyds, Curwin Bosch, Lionel Mapoe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Elton Jantjies, Embrose Papier and Damian Willemse were fit and ready to play, and there were two overseas options as well in Juan de Jongh and Nizaam Carr.
“If you go to the rehab clinic, you’ll see why – how many of our black players are injured?” Alexander stated.
“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.”
The Bok squad for the end-of-year tour will be named on Saturday after the Currie Cup final between Western Province and the Sharks at Newlands.@ashfakmohamed