The Congress of South African Trade Unions has accused Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus of giving preferential treatment to white players.
Erasmus has selected four players of colour in the Bok starting XV for Saturday’s match against the All Blacks in Wellington (Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Siya Kolisi) with another four on the bench (Bongi Mbonambi, Beast Mtawarira, Elton Jantjies and Cheslin Kolbe).
With Sb’u Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi both injured, Erasmus has opted to move centre Jesse Kriel to the right wing instead of giving Kolbe a first Test start, while Handré Pollard regains the No 10 jersey from Jantjies. With Warrick Gelant injured, Erasmus has also kept faith in Le Roux at fullback, while Ross Cronjé is preferred on the bench to Embrose Papier.
Among the forwards, Malcolm Marx, regarded as the world’s best hooker, has come back in for Mbonambi, while Steven Kitshoff will start ahead of Mtawarira.
The match 23 for Saturday therefore has eight players of colour in total, which is 35%. The Boks’ transformation target for this year is 45% and 50% for 2019.
Erasmus has come close to meeting the 2018 target at times this year, with seven players of colour included in the Bok starting XV for the first Test against England in June and another three on the bench (10 out of 23 is 43%).
However, in a press statement on Thursday, Cosatu said it was ‘speaking on behalf of many rugby players in South Africa who are enraged by the choices’ made by Rassie for Saturday’s Test.
‘Rassie has been treating the black Springbok players as second class this entire year. His starting lineup for Saturday is a reversal to white preference players, which exposes his attitude towards black players.’
Cosatu was also upset at Erasmus’ decision to substitute hooker Mbonambi after 35 minutes in last weekend’s Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane. It came shortly after a botched lineout had gifted Australia a try. Erasmus said afterwards that the hooker had been ‘struggling’ and had ’emptied the tank’.
‘The white players are given special places in the Springbok team ahead of the form black players,’ said Cosatu. ‘Francois Louw has been playing poorly, Handré Pollard has been playing poorly, and Willie le Roux has been playing poorly. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk has been playing poorly, yet they are not substituted when there are talented form players on the bench. Mbonambi is substituted on 35 minutes which is entirely irrational and designed to undermine him. Many black players when they do get a chance on the field are played out of their positions, to deny them the prospect to bring their best skills.’
Cosatu also questioned Erasmus having two roles, as SA Rugby director of rugby and Bok coach.
‘Rassie clearly cannot do both the jobs but wants to keep the director of rugby position in case he fails as the coach. He has been erratic in his choices and his game plan, refusing to take responsibility for not giving players and combinations a decent chance to build partnerships. Cosatu is raising this concern with Saru before it gets worse and embarrasses the whole country so that decisive action can be taken. Whilst Cosatu would encourage South Africans to support the Springboks, Rassie is pushing black South Africans away from the team with his discriminatory attitude and actions.’