Cape Town - Legendary former England and British Lions centre Jeremy Guscott says South Africa rugby needs to "get rid of quotas" if the Springboks are to be a force in world rugby again.
SA Rugby is under pressure to transform the national team and the target is for the Springbok team to feature 50% black players at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
But the 52-year-old Guscott, who played 65 Tests for England and went on three British and Irish Lions tours, feels merit selections are the only way forward for the Springboks.
Guscott expressed his views via a column for The Rugby Paper in England late last week.
“Ever since South Africa adopted a quota system for national team selection it was always going to throw up tough challenges in terms of getting their best team on the field. Those difficulties were highlighted this autumn when the Springboks were overwhelmed by Ireland and then lost to Wales,” Guscott wrote.
Guscott, who is famous for kicking the series-winning drop goal for the Lions against the Springboks at Kings Park in 1997, is worried about South Africa’s ability compete with the likes of New Zealand, England, Ireland, Australia, Wales and Scotland in future.
“In some ways I feel sorry for the South Africans, but going down the quota route was always a mistake. They have to get rid of quotas and pick people on ability."
Guscott also called on SA Rugby to allow the Springbok coach to to pick overseas-based players.
At present, only overseas-based Springboks with 30 or more Test caps can be picked for the national team.
“With 350 top South African players in Europe and Japan the Springboks no longer have the luxury of picking their third choice - these days it’s more like having to make do with their twentieth choice. South African rugby has enormous depth, but the reality is that their best players are not playing for the Springboks,” Guscott continued.
Guscott did however use the example of flanker Siya Kolisi as a black player who has excelled for the Springboks.
“Kolisi is there on merit, and when Eben Etzebeth was replaced during the game against Wales he was promoted to captain. The good news is that Kolisi is using his high profile to help black and coloured youngsters to do what he has done, and is a great role model. What is also important is that he has been backing up his position with strong performances on the pitch.”