Black talent mistreated - Malotana

2015-08-20 10:41
Kaya Malotana (Gallo Images)

Kaya Malotana holds the distinction of being the first black player selected to represent the Springboks in the professional era.

He debuted for South Africa during the pool stages of the 1999 World Cup against Spain at Murrayfield. As fate would have it, that day - October 10 - would prove to be the first and last time he would play for the men in green and gold.

“Being the first black Springbok was a massive responsibility because I knew it wasn’t just about me. There were so many people who fought behind the scenes to make it happen,” he told Sport24 exclusively.

“To be the first player of colour to get the chance was special because in that moment, I saw all the black people’s hard labour finally come to fruition.”

Fast forward 16 years, and the former centre now serves as director of coaching at Alberton Rugby Club. Malotana readily admits that his primary focus is to fast-track talented players of colour and he bemoans the double standards that are still rife within South African rugby.

“From day one, when we started rolling out the transformation process, I would have put more pressure on the school system to ensure that children are afforded equal opportunity.

“Provincial school teams are given the leeway to choose (the racial make-up) at their own discretion and if you don’t police people, the reality is that they will always take the easy way out. Black representation has consequently fallen by the wayside. Coming out of school, there should be a standardised contracting system that is enforced by the mother body, Saru, so that players of colour don’t feel as though they are being treated differently.”

While Malotana maintains that head coach Nick Mallett trusted the four players of colour in his 1999 World Cup squad - himself, Breyton Paulse, Wayne Julies and Deon Kayser - the fact of the matter is that only the latter was selected to face the Wallabies in the semi-final.

In turn, incumbent coach Heyneke Meyer has failed to back black players in big matches.

“While we’re not inside the Springbok environment, the worst case scenario is that Meyer doesn’t have a relationship with the players of colour in his team and doesn’t care to talk to them and explain his thinking in terms of selection. It then leaves players to make up their own assumptions and conclude that they are being overlooked on the basis of skin colour.”

SARU's target for 2019 is for representation of Springbok, Springbok Sevens, Super Rugby and Currie Cup teams to be 50% white, 30% black and 20% coloured. Is that a realistic objective?

“No”, says Malotana.

“The problem with doing things when under pressure is that you set unrealistic targets. 50% black and coloured representation is setting everybody up for failure because not enough players of colour are being selected in Super Rugby. People will turn around and say, these black players have compromised the quality of the Springbok team.”

Malotana believes that the bulk of professional coaches in South Africa are trying to meet the minimum requirements in terms of transformation targets, which is setting the system back.

“If you have unions only fielding three black players in the starting line-up and two on the bench, where are the numbers going to come from to meet the 50 % mark?” he asks, in an exasperated tone.

“There is a level of frustration more than anything else and, to be honest, we feel insulted when things seem to be so blatant in the way they’re being done.”

Malotana is a talented mentor with a wealth of knowledge to impart having played at the highest level. After successive knee injuries curtailed his professional playing career, he ploughed his passion for rugby into coaching. The 39-year-old is enjoying his role at club level, but makes no bones about chasing higher honours.

“I’m gaining experience at club level, but I have aspirations to climb as high as I possibly can on the coaching ladder. In the future, I believe we are going to see more coaches of colour coming through the ranks but, at the moment, the fact is there are limited opportunities for black coaches in South Africa.”

Hypothetically speaking, if Malotana was appointed Springbok coach tomorrow, which players of colour would be the first names on his team-sheet?

“Elton Jantjies lit up Super Rugby in terms of the way he attacked. As much as many coaches believe rugby matches are won purely on defence, it’s also about keeping the ball in hand and cracking defensive lines.

I would certainly give Elton a shot at flyhalf and see how he goes. I would also select Lionel Mapoe at outside centre. He was the in-form No 13 throughout Super Rugby. Lwazi Mvovo showed against Argentina this past Saturday he deserves to be in the team on merit. He was outstanding on the wing and is precisely the type of finisher the Boks need.”

Scarra Ntubeni has been released by the Springboks to play in the Currie Cup, but Malotana is opposed to the idea.

“Scarra deserves a look-in at national level because he is a very consistent player and maintains an average of 90% performance in each and every match.”


Marcelo Bosch

Mark Robinson

Kobus Wiese

Butch James

Ali Williams

Lwazi Mvovo

Rob Louw

Tim Swiel

Jano Vermaak

Scarra Ntubeni

Elton Jantjies

Gary Teichmann

Cornal Hendricks

Marco Wentzel

Roger De Sa

Laurie Mains

Matt Dunning

Mark Andrews

Hennie le Roux

Peter de Villiers

Ian McIntosh

Carlos Spencer

Braam van Straaten

Manuel Carizza

Carel du Plessis

Bob Dwyer

Dick Muir

Alan Solomons

Callie Visagie

Raymond Rhule

Frans Ludeke

Demetri Catrakilis

Warren Whiteley

Naka Drotske

Michael Cheika

Francois Hougaard

Andre Watson

Chester Williams

Jono Ross

Johan Ackermann

Japie Mulder

Makhaya Ntini

Andre Joubert

James Dalton

Shaun Pollock

Jonathan Kaplan

James Small

Pat Symcox

Joe van Niekerk

Nick Mallett

Heyneke Meyer

Tiaan Strauss

John Mitchell

David Campese

Dean Furman

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby

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