Transformation is not fashionable and it is not ‘so yesterday'. It is an ongoing crisis in South African Rugby. The lack of transparency needs to be constantly challenged.
Merit is not white and development is not black.
To the bigots who read this column, forget the simpleton argument that all you want is the best team, black or white. It doesn’t have substance because the so called best national team on average since 1992 averages two black players in the starting XV. The results, but for the occasional high, have been abysmal, but the 13 white players aren’t blamed for the shocking returns. What’s blamed is transformation, which is presented as fact when it is nothing more than an ingrained prejudice.
I am sick of hearing the defence of merit based on white and the condescending applause of a black player who shouldn’t be defined by anything but his brilliance on the rugby field.
I still hear people talk of Springbok rugby’s greatest try scorer Bryan Habana as being good for a quota player but the many white wingers whose Springbok wing careers are defined by the mediocre are accepted as merit selections.
It is disgusting but what is even more disgusting (for me) is that the saviour of SA Rugby, endorsed by smaller unions who should be as insignificant as the mediocre historical white Springbok winger, is the Leopards Rugby Union president Andre May, who will challenge incumbent Mark Alexander on April 6.
May’s only relevance to the SA Rugby landscape is that he is one of only two provincial union presidents who refused to sign the South African Rugby Union transformation charter.
He shouldn’t be in South African rugby, let alone a candidate to lead the sport in 2018.
The acceptance of white mediocrity in our rugby selections appals me; equally the resistance to acknowledging the quality of black rugby players.
May, in the calendar year, comes after April and before June. In terms of our rugby, a man who refuses to embrace transformation should come before or after nothing. He shouldn’t even be a consideration.
The emphasis on transformation has to come from the existing leadership of president Mark Alexander, his deputy Francois Davids and the CEO Jurie Roux. The trio simply have to show strength in their conviction about what is right for the game. They have to crack the whip or find a way constitutionally to lead South Africa out of the suffocation that is white endorsement.
It’s a fact that the game, 25 years after unification, remains white on the playing field, the trio have the privilege of being at the forefront of change. Now is their time to show it.
SA Rugby Magazine’s Jon Cardinelli’s factual and unemotional detailing of the failings of SA Rugby to transform professionally on the field in Super Rugby is damning of the franchises.
Equally, the statistics are unacceptable if rugby is to mirror the transformation of South Africa as a society.
I can’t endorse the candidacy of a man who can’t understand the obvious in why rugby has to transform. Equally, the incumbents can’t escape censure because of an imbalanced provincial/regional constitution that allows the tail to parade as the dog in South African Rugby.
Cardinelli detailed the absolute failure of the franchises to transform and then questioned the realism of expecting Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus’s 2019 World Cup Springboks to be a 50/50 black/white on-field selection.
Take a read of Cardinelli’s research and then you be the judge of whether transformation is at the heart of South African (and by extension Springboks) rugby failure, or if prejudice and white bias in selection is more a sin than a salvation?
Here’s what Cardinelli wrote: "Consider how the franchises have fared in this department between 2014 and 2017. As many as 107 black players featured in Super Rugby during that period. Only 17 of those players amassed 30 or more starts over those four seasons. As many as 73 of those 107 players started 15 or fewer games."
Translated in percentages, 15% of the Super Rugby established professional black playing base is expected to provide 50 percent of the 2019 Springbok Rugby World Cup run on XV.
That’s why so many believe that 35 percent of the black player selection is quota, because so few black players are given an equal opportunity to be part of that 50 percent selection; let alone the 100 percent.
Think about it, 85 percent of South Africa’s senior Super Rugby white player base (30 starts or more) have won nothing in Super Rugby in the last four years, yet the perception, reported as fact, is that South African rugby is at a low because of black player transformation.
The notion is as insulting as May’s presidential ambitions.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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