Meyer’s Boks are old crocks
Cape Town – Old crock Boks! That is Cosatu’s verdict on the squad announced to represent SA at the Rugby World Cup in October.
While Cosatu said the squad was the “most representative team that has ever been elected” and “a victory for workers and a victory for transformation in rugby in South Africa”, it also said it was “sad that it takes pressure to get the Saru to do the right thing for the country in respect of the rugby team”.
It went on to say it was concerned about the white players in the 31-man squad. “The Boere Mafia insist on putting their old crocks into the team, when there are clearly better black and white players outside the team, who are much better.”
The 31-man squad was announced in Durban on Friday night. Its players of colour include Trevor Nyakane, Siya Kolisi, Rudy Paige, Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo and Damian de Allende.
Some commentators have included Tendai Mtawarira in this grouping, although he is not South African-born.
In recent weeks, there has also been running debate in some media about De Allende’s race, but latest reports on the subject have named him as a player of colour.
Saru deputy president Mark Alexander, who presided over the squad announcement, said that the squad had met their transformation requirements, as agreed on by government and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), a few weeks ago.
The basic requirement was 30 percent players of colour, which constitutes nine out of the 31-man squad. “We are happy with where we are with our transformation initiative,” said Alexander.
“We signed an agreement with the government and Sascoc. There are six dimensions (in the agreement), and performance is one of them. We checked our barometer and we are 92 percent on track. We (SA rugby) could do better but we are happy where we are right now.”
Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, in a detailed statement, said on Saturday that “there are no short cuts... nor magical or divine solutions to achieve transformation goals”.
He also expressed his concern over “the recent poor performance of our national rugby men’s team, the Springboks, and concerns based on the poor demographic representation in the composition of the team.”
He said he had noted that sentiments about Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s perceived failures were a “legitimate public outcry based on the non-selection and denial of game time for deserving black players”.
The minister reminded “all South Africans that we are delivering sport under conditions that were not chosen by ourselves. We have accepted these objective and subjective conditions under which we had to operate to change the sporting landscape.
“We realised earlier that there are no short cuts nor magical divine solutions to achieve transformation goals. It is in this ever present challenge to transform the major sporting codes that policies with specific consequences had been developed”, which, the minister noted in his statement, could bring severe consequences for non-compliance.
These consequences included “suspending or withdrawal of the government’s funding to the South African Rugby Union (Saru), withdrawal of the government’s recognition of Saru as a national federation and revoking Saru’s authority to host and bid for major international rugby tournaments.
The DA added its voice to the debate on the selections.
Darren Bergman, DA spokesman on sport, said that the key issue was “about trying to get balance”.
“We want a balance of competitiveness and a team that looks transformed, but we believed that all of the players who have been selected for the team are there on merit.”
He cautioned against creating divisions among players: “We must be careful not to create two classes of players, those who are in the team as quota players, and those who were selected on merit.”
Former Boks, like Corné Krige, who have shone on the big stage before, also brought their perspectives to the debate.
“I think it’s a good squad, there are a couple of surprises – it’s a surprise that Rudy Paige is there in Cobus Reinach’s place, and also that Heinrich Brüssow and Marcell Coetzee aren’t there.
“But it’s understandable that Heyneke had to look at a certain quota. I believe that Siya Kolisi should have got a chance a long time ago and I’m looking forward to seeing him play at the World Cup.
“Ex-coaches have thrown all the stones they can at the current Bok coach, and everybody has criticised him, and that must go out the window now and everyone must get behind the team. They’ll need all the support they can get,” Krige said. – Additional reporting by Herman Gibbs/ANA