Compulsory reading for SARU

2012-02-21 12:46

In a hard-hitting article published in the local Sunday newspaper, Rapport, dated February 12, 2012, former SARU captain and presently vice-rector at Stellenbosch University, professor Julian Smith, accused SARU (and sections of “the rugby media”) of leading South African rugby into what he calls “an unrealistic future”.

Ordinarily accusations like this will not draw much attention. However, coming from an esteemed academic, executive manager, leader and someone that played and excelled in rugby during the harsh Apartheid years, it requires closer interpretation.

In the article Smith compares the appointment processes used to appoint the previous Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and current coach Heyneke Meyer. He is ideally placed to comment on these since he was the chairperson of the selection committee which SARU appointed in 2007 to interview the shortlisted candidates for the Springbok coaching position and which committee subsequently recommended the appointment of De Villiers.

In reading through his article, three critical messages attracted my attention. He uses the two vastly different appointment processes to illustrate his points.

Firstly, he states his disappointment in what he considers to be a retreat back into exclusivity and secrecy by SARU. In 2007 he chaired a selection committee which consisted of a team of experts on various aspects ranging from the technical aspects of the game, strategic management, human resources, transformation, etc. This open, transparent (fair) process signaled a significant shift away from the paranoid and isolated way SARU (read SARB/SARFU) used to operate in years gone by. It was also a recognition that sound corporate governance should be extended to the appointment process of the number one employee of the organisation, the Springbok coach. 

However, he suggests that the almost secretive manner in which the latest appointment was made reflects a retreat back to the “laager mentality of yester-year". This is a very serious allegation and is significant since it was under the present leadership of rugby that sound governance took centre stage at SARU since 2006. This shift back to “the old ways” is thus very disturbing and indeed a cause for concern.

Smith lambasts the media for perpetuating the misconception that Meyer was the number one candidate for the Springbok coaching position in 2007 and that it was political considerations that led to De Villiers’s appointment. As the chairperson of the selection committee he states unmistakably that the committee unanimously recommended De Villiers as the number one candidate based on the extensive and thorough appraisal of all the candidates on the shortlist. 

He goes on to lament the sloppy manner in which the announcement of De Villiers’s appointment was handled by the president of SARU, Oregan Hoskins. The fact is the Presidents Council endorsed the recommendation of the selection panel to appoint De Villiers. He argues that certain sections of the media, who according to him, represent specific sectarian interests, latched onto Hoskins’s gaffe and the rest is history.

I took time to read some of the responses to the professor’s article in this past weekend’s Rapport and I must say I was astounded by the ignorance on display and it once again illustrated how far apart we still are when it comes to the fundamental issues in sport.

Further on in his article, Smith warns South Africans about the dualistic nature of sport. While we eagerly grab onto the romanticised view of sport (for example that rugby and the Springbok will somehow magically draw us together to make one happy nation), namely, that it builds character and facilitates social cohesion and nation building, we rarely consider the reverse that especially in historically divided societies (like South Africa) sport can also be the source of major divisions and a catalyst for conflict between diverse interest groups. 

Smith goes on to say that while we all would like to see sport work for the greater good of society, we need to ensure that the governance of sport reflects the values of transparency, honesty, openness and that it will seek to advance the ideals of the majority of South Africans and not only that of those who hold sway at any particular time.

It is therefore incumbent upon the leaders of rugby (in particular) to take heed of this admonition from one of the very few principled leaders still concerned with the state of the game. 

His article should be compulsory reading for the decision-makers at SARU.

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


  • Nico - 2012-02-21 12:59

    And as it is compulsory reading for SARU, they will go out of their way to ignore it!

  • Alwyn - 2012-02-21 13:19

    Gary, this is another one of your articles that you use to hide your racict tendencies away under a academic wording. This Professor is the same one then that gave us 4 horrible years of Divvy. I would rather take the other option that was used to get Meyer. Springbok coach is one of the most prestigious positions in the world, SA Rugby can ask who they want. They do not need to put in advertisements. Not once have you critised Divvy, your tjommie hay? Sports24, please fire this oke!

      CapeChappy - 2012-02-21 17:29

      Thanks Alwyn, you took the words out of my mouth. More closet drivel from Gary Boshoff. I think he must spend his nights trolling the media for anyone supporting his narrow view of the world. He states that sport can divide.... Gary, what divides people is constant rhetoric like yours. True sports fans just want winning results and don't care who is in the team, but people like you keep bringing up the same tired old crap. You are the weakest link...

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-22 12:38

      FFS Gary, Smith was there, he knows the real story, despite what he says. He knows that all except one caved into voting for PDV, much the same as the hands were forced to allow the EC into SuperRugby. It was political, Meyer was by far the better choice and remains so. If he wants to talk about "technical aspects of the game, strategic management, human resources, transformation, etc" then let's talk. PDV made a mockery not only out of his position, but that of SA rugby in general with his colourful words and crazy utterances. Not to mention the decision makers were the senior players, which is plain for all but the most blind to see. Gary, your comments continually give away a deeper resentment, a loathing for something that does not exist anymore. Face it chump, it's all in your head, and Smith's too, apparently. One day there will be a book or two on the handling of PDV's appointment, and the shambles that occurred will come out. Right now those involved have too much to lose.

  • Shistirrer - 2012-02-21 13:38

    Gary, you have a well balanced personality. You have a chip on each shoulder.

      Marcel - 2012-02-21 14:02

      finally we all agree on something

      Christian - 2012-02-21 14:03

      I wish I could give you several thumbs-up! A funny comment that is so true!

  • Bullsrfairies - 2012-02-21 14:27

    "Smith lambasts the media for perpetuating the misconception that Meyer was the number one candidate for the Springbok coaching position in 2007 and that it was political considerations that led to De Villiers’s appointment. As the chairperson of the selection committee he states unmistakably that the committee unanimously recommended De Villiers as the number one candidate based on the extensive and thorough appraisal of all the candidates on the shortlist." - Professor this is not what white people want to hear. Please tell them what they want to hear, that Div was an AA appointee and the only reason Meyer didnt get the job was because he was white.

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-22 12:48


  • Zion - 2012-02-22 14:39

    God help Meyer should he not perform in accordance to the likes and dislikes of the fans who will be ultimately sponsoring his pay-packet.

  • Kamohelo - 2012-02-22 19:30

    Last year French football attempted to put in quota system because the top brass thought they were producing too many players of North and West African origin and too few whites. Thus creating a national team that looked more African than French. Sport is not only about winning. South Africa's history demands more than just winning.

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-22 19:41

      So you are saying SA demands to lose to satisfy egos and representation. That pretty much sums up Africa.

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-22 19:43

      Perhaps the NBA should be 80% white too.

      Kamohelo - 2012-02-23 02:54

      I was just saying that thinking winning is all that matters in a country as SA is ridiculous. Using the NBA as an example is absurd. In the U.S whites coach, manage, and control the teams. Segregation in sports began to end some 60 years ago in the U.S compared to 15 in S.A. Rugby in SA is a "white sport" solely due to apartheid and not due to merit because blacks were completely excluded. I wonder what the makeup of the Springboks would be if there had never been apartheid? Maybe like the NBA?lol

  • John - 2012-02-27 22:59

    1. Any selection process that was designed to deny a World Cup winning coach an opportunity to continue cannot be anything but flawed and unfair. 2. As for rugby being divisive rather than unifying: It has been your (albeit "between the lines") argument for years that it is the old white guard that keeps rugby from being unified, despite the fact that the black contingent is pretty much doing the same thing. You particularly believe that the black contingent is entitled to more at the boardroom, however, you feel that democracy is only a viable option as long as the black contingent is the benefactors. You have no interest in what is best for South African rugby, as long as it is in the interest of black South African rugby. I have yet to read an article from you that is in the interest of rugby. All of your articles call for the interests of Black rugby, as if it is a separate thing. It might be possible to have unity in spite of diversity, but you cannot preach diversity (like you do) and then expect unity to follow.

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