"Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that’s how we’ve got to live."
That nugget of wisdom, penned by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, has never been more apt in relation to what has been a week of bitter realisation for many fans of what may be considered “previously advantaged sports”.
For a while, we’ve been witnessing the gradual decline of Springbok rugby – from their losses against Ireland and Wales towards the end of last year and their recent failure in this year’s Rugby Championship (which included their first-ever loss to Argentina), to the epic fail last Saturday in their opening match of the World Cup against none other than Japan.
A strand running concurrently with these on-field disasters has been the issue of transformation, or lack thereof, in South African rugby; and now it seems, as that great sage of the sport Pieter de Villiers would say, the chickens have been counted and they’ve come home to roost. And as it turns out, those chickens just happened to be mostly white – and old.
If transformation and good results go hand in hand, the Springboks are in for many more embarrassing defeats, especially since their coach and current support staff seem impervious to what needs to be done to get the sport up to scratch in body, mind and spirit. What’s clear is that, these days, training should involve more than pulling tractors through farmland or alleged homicide on the streets of Pretoria.
There’s a need for a change in the overall mind-set of Springbok rugby, something that came through obviously on the field in Brighton last week, where the Boks’ style of play was shown up as outdated and from an untransformed era.
The buzzword isn’t hot only in relation to our most successful previously advantaged contact sport. Vanguards of the old guard howled foul in March during the cricket World Cup when Cricket SA (CSA) insisted on an injured Vernon Philander’s inclusion despite Kyle Abbott being on a hot streak.
The situation was quickly framed as one of “transformation for transformation’s sake”, where no meaning could be attached to Big Vern’s selection other than the fact that he’s not white.
AB de Villiers was one of the most vocal supporters of this argument, backed by bosom buddy and Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool classmate Faf du Plessis.
But the fact is that race and transformation do indeed have deep meanings in a country where, not too long ago, people were forced to sit on separate benches and swim at separate beaches.
When privilege rants about merit, it forgets the work this country needs. The imbalance is apparent in all facets of South African life, and the Springboks unravelling last weekend highlights the need for the old guard to loosen its grip.
Luckily for South African cricket, the chickens have not been counted yet and their homecoming has been somewhat delayed by a more pronounced step towards transformation by the CSA’s CEO. And Faf and AB’s stand against it might suggest their days at the forefront of the squad, despite their obvious talent, are rightly numbered.
So it would be wise for South African cricket to take lessons from its previously pretty cousin, the most important one being Murakami’s assertion that change is inevitable and success hinges on how it’s dealt with.
is an armchair cricket critic. He went to China Mart, bought a Japan rugby jersey and has been wearing it all week