Tank Lanning

Perhaps Ramos has a point?

2010-09-29 09:17
Tank Lanning
Tank Lanning

Absa Group chief executive Maria Ramos smashed her way into the quota debate like a bull in a  china shop yesterday, making it abundantly clear to all that Absa, as a long time sponsor to SA Rugby, has every right to have their say on how the sport is run.

And she reiterated her company’s support for a more rapid rate of change in rugby, saying that Absa had raised concerns “because we are all involved in a project of building a new country – one that is fairer, dynamic and much more inclusive”.

Chris Gibbons, the man behind the mic on the Cape Talk “Mid Day report” show, asked me to comment on the situation on Tuesday afternoon, so I made a few notes …

We ran a vote on Sport24, and 77% of the voters suggested that Absa stay out of running the sport, while 23% though that because they paid the bills, they should be allowed to have their say …

It was pretty sad how the various stereotypes here in SA were reinforced, with a growing number of farmers threatening to withdraw their accounts from the bank and AfriForum entering the fray with a “stop Absa quotas” campaign. White Afrikaans farmers take on bank who wants more Blacks in rugby – sigh!

Sport24 blogger Snakedoctor pointed out that Absa might want to take a look at it’s own fairly white Board of Directors before commenting on other people’s transformation – that was funny.

A friend SMS’d to ask why a British owned company had any right to suggest to SARU how they should run their business? And did it perhaps have anything to do with who Ramos was married to? That of course, being Trevor Manual …

Perhaps the most damning aspect of this whole saga for me, is how weak Oregan Hoskins is made to look. Instead of taking the unions on himself regarding transformation, he chose to use an SMS from a sponsor as some form of “Threat” to them, no doubt inferring that not listening could mean missing out on money!

So while my immediate thought was in line with the 77% of the people who participated in the Sport24 vote, i.e. that Absa should back off … After due consideration, I actually do think they have a right to have a say in how the Currie Cup is run. Why?

  • They are not a flash in the pan sponsor. They have sponsored the Currie Cup for 25 years
  • Sponsors get involved in a sport not only for the good of the sport, but for some sort of ROI, and as such, Absa are Currie Cup stakeholders
  • Speaking of ROI … Most sponsors would include “Winning” and “Quality rugby” as part of that ROI as that gets you more eyeballs, so for them to suggest greater participation by previously disadvantaged players, flies in the face of the theory that more black players means a drop in the quality of the rugby – And I like that.
  • Sponsors regularly meet with SARU to discuss various matters, so I have no doubt that Von Zeuner and Hoskins have a good relationship, meaning the SMS was probably sent in good faith. It was Hoskins who turned it into a national incident by mailing every provincial union.
  • At no stage did Absa mention quotas, to my mind the scourge of real development. So I am happy to accept that they are after better structures that would see more players coming through the ranks, and thus available for merit selection.

Perhaps one could liken it to buying a share in a company. Buy a few shares and you spectate, hoping that the business performs for you. Buy a few more shares, and you get invited to the AGM, buy a lot more shares and you end up controlling the company. So how many shares has Absa bought?

Speaking of real development, I found the numbers that Stephen Nell dug up very interesting indeed:

The WP under-21 side that won the SA provincial championship in 2007 by beating the Blue Bulls 31-17 in the final, contained 9 players of colour in the match-day 22.

They were Cameron Peverett, Ricardo Croy, Morné Jooste, Morgan Newman, Dabeon Draghoender, Terry Jacobs, Hayden Groepes, Alastair Siegelaar and Marvin Christians.

Only Newman is in the WP set-up now and he has a knee injury that will sideline him for a long time.

Peverett and Draghoender both played for Maties in the national club championships last week, while Jacobs represented Hamiltons. Siegelaar is with the Golden Lions and Groepes with the Blue Bulls.

There are a number of white players in that WP under-21 team that have also not made it, with only three players from the starting line-up – JC Kritzinger, Deon Fourie and De Kock Steenkamp regulars for the senior team.

Conrad Hoffmann has also played in the Currie Cup, but will continue his career at the Sharks.

In the WP under-19 team of the same year, which also beat the Bulls in their final, Francois Hougaard played scrumhalf and Juan de Jongh at centre.

It’s quite clear in my mind, based on the above, and having commentated at two of the last three Craven Week’s, that enough players of colour are coming through the schools and age group levels. As Nell says, though, it’s inevitable that some of them will not develop physically, while others may not be professional enough in their approach and others may just not be good enough.

I know for a fact that quotas at the highest level certainly won't solve anything though. And let’s face it, 1992, the year of enlightenment for South Africa, is not even a single generation ago. Perhaps we really do just need to be a little more patient …

Tank is a former WP prop and editor of Sport24. He posted this piece on his Front Row Grunt blog yesterday.

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.


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