Simnikiwe Xabanisa

‘Border RFU wrong to play race card’

The Border Rugby Football Union's decision not to release its club players for provincial duties goes against its own constitution, says Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd chairman André Kilian. GARETH DUNCAN reports.

With the Currie Cup First Division kicking off this weekend, Border rugby is stuck in a transformation row as the BRFU refuses to release its club players to its professional arm. The Border Bulldogs are now forced to look for players outside the region for their opening game against SWD in East London on Friday, while Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd is trying to resolve the issue. 

According to BRFU president Phumlani Mkolo, the lack of demographic representation of the region in the academy and Border Bulldogs has been a core issue over the past two years. Mkolo pointed to black players who were dropped from the senior squad last season and said nothing had been done to improve the situation under the same coaching staff.

However, Kilian believes the BRFU is wrong to play the race card.

'If one looks at the preamble of the BRFU constitution and bylaws, it clearly states that rugby should be played, administered and promoted on a non-racial, non-political and democratic basis,' Killian told 'It goes further and states that all persons, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender should have the right to participate, in whatever capacity, in the game of rugby. The preamble also states that playing strength and merit should be decisive norms.

'The president of the BRFU clearly wants to ignore his own union’s constitution's preamble and make this purely a racial issue.

'His statement regarding black local players who were omitted from the squad last year, that they were not good enough for the standard of rugby, is a prime example. The facts are that after the new coach assessed the squad which he inherited, he believed that 11 players were lacking in certain areas and decided that they needed to work on these particular areas at their respective clubs. Six of the players were players of colour and five were white players. There has not been any mention of the white players affected in the media and the picture is portrayed that it were just black players who had been sent to their respective clubs.'

Kilian also stressed no player was actually omitted from the greater squad at the time as Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd had all the players under contract.

'Some of these players, on their own accord, decided to work on the areas which they were asked to sharpen up on. Some asked to be released from their contracts and moved on to other provinces.'

Kilian also pointed to the notable transformation in Border's junior ranks. According to a report by Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd, there have been major improvements since the union's academy was established in 2011.

These include:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, Border U19 and U21 struggled in the B Division of their respective provincial tournaments. Border's best talent was also freely signed up by other unions.
  • In 2011, the Border U21 won the U21 B Division and earned promotion to the A Division. The Border U19s qualified for the B Division final, but lost. However, they earned promotion to the A Division in 2012, with eight players of colour featuring in the starting line-up.
  • Last year, 17 Border U18 Craven Week and Academy representatives signed contracts. These included 14 players of colour. Structures have also been implemented to focus on U12 to U17 age-groups to allow early identification to take place.
  • On the topic of demographic transformation, the Border Academy has had demographic change from just over 15% in 2011 to 42.6 % in 2013. The total complement of team management for the Border Bulldogs, Bulldogs U21s and Bulldogs U19s is 12, which means 50% of the coaches are black. The CEO of Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd Lefty Ngece is a merit appointment and holds a post-graduate qualification.

The report goes on to mention that that seven U21 players were exposed to Vodacom Cup rugby this season and four Border players were part of the SA Presidents team that won the Tbilisi Cup in Georgia. Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd also hopes to have representatives in the Southern Kings Super Rugby squad in the near future.

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Photo:Micheal Sheehan/Gallo Images

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