Rugby sponsor against quotas
Erna van Wyk
Johannesburg – Currie Cup sponsor Absa has stated that it does not support the quota system in rugby.
A storm erupted around South Africa’s biggest bank following reports on Friday that South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins had written to rugby unions last Monday about Absa’s concern about a “lack of transformation”.
Afriforum reacted by immediately launching a campaign against Absa.
The “Stop Absa Quotas” campaign started on Friday afternoon. It led to numerous Absa account holders threatening to close their accounts.
On Saturday, the civil rights movement said that the campaign had been launched because the bank had not “reacted immediately” on the allegation that it is in favour of quotas.
By Saturday afternoon, the campaign had included more than 12 000 chain SMS-messages. More than 9 000 people signed a petition and the Facebook group had more than 1 300 members by late Sunday afternoon.
However, Absa deputy chief executive Louis von Zeuner told Rapport that Absa had never demanded a quota system.
“We never said that a team should include a certain number of players of colour. Our point of view is: Let’s make sure that we keep the momentum in transformation and give players with potential the opportunity to showcase their talent.”
Afriforum’s Kallie Kriel admitted that Von Zeuner had phoned him from New York on Friday and asked for a meeting early this week.
“I think it’s the fact that Absa did not act immediately to deny it,” said Kriel about why they had started the campaign hours after the reports had appeared. He admitted that Absa should get a fair chance to respond to the allegations.
He also admitted that Afriforum had not made any effort to speak to Hoskins about the allegations in his email.
“If Absa say the media have misunderstood, then it’s Hoskins that sent out the wrong message. We are upset about what Hoskins said. If Absa say they have not said what Hoskins had written, we’ll leave it,” said Kriel.
“In that case we will rather focus on Hoskins – what his agenda is and why.”
Attempts to get comment from Hoskins before going to press were unsuccessful.
Von Zeuner said: “The irony is that I agree with Kriel that we should not have a team with quotas. Players should be picked on merit.
“Our Sevens, under-19 and under-21 teams show good diversity. The players should also be brought through to senior level. That is the feeder for Springbok rugby.”
Absa have sponsored the Currie Cup for 25 years and the sponsorship is worth around R40-million per year. The current sponsorship will run until 2013.
The bank is currently in negotiations with SARU to become the Springboks’ jersey sponsor in a deal that could be worth R60-million for five years.
“Absa never threatened to withdraw its sponsorship,” said Von Zeuner.
“We also want to sponsor the Springboks. Our sponsorship is for all South Africans and we want everybody to enjoy the sport.
“Crowds are drawn by good play, good competition, good talent and the fact that people see their heroes in action. Look at the impact Elton Jantjies made when he got the opportunity to play in the senior league, as well as Dewald Potgieter and Juan de Jongh.”
Meanwhile e-news reported this weekend that there were only 16 black players among the Currie Cup teams that played at the weekend.