Mbalula: Fans must back SA vision

Minister of sport Fikile Mbalula has called for South African fans to get behind the new Springbok coach as well as SA Rugby’s strategic transformation plan. JON CARDINELLI reports.

In the lead-up to the announcement of the new Bok coach on Tuesday, SA Rugby president Oregan Hoskins said that he was excited to see what the next four years would bring. It is hoped that more players of colour are brought through the system over the next few years, and that the national coach can select a team that is 50% white and 50% black by 2019.

Hoskins said that transformation will be priority over the next four years, and that this factored into the appointment of Coetzee.

‘I ask all to stand behind him. He has walked the walk, and is the best man for the job,’ Hoskins said.

Mbalula echoed these sentiments when addressing the media later in the press conference.

‘I don’t believe it is a token appointment,’ said Mbalula. ‘He’s walked the talk and deserves this chance.

‘I see people have congratulated him today. But I know he could come in for criticism if he loses those matches against Ireland. That is what happens in South Africa. I would like to see people supporting him in the bad times as well.

‘Today is a great moment for rugby,’ the minister of sport continued. ‘I thank the board for the appointment. I am happy with where rugby is going with regard to transformation. It’s no longer cheap talk.

‘If you are not going to comply, you will be judged and punished. I have my critics who are both pro- and anti-transformation, but let us run the journey. I am very proud of this team and I hope we can keep working together to move South Africa forward.’

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said he was confident that the strategic transformation plan would produce the desired results.

‘We’ve signed an agreement with the minister, so he will either be very angry or very happy with us depending on how we fare,’ said Roux. ‘I’m confident we will get there, though, as we have taken a very strategic route.

‘We will be tested on that plan regularly. We will be looking at each and every union moving forward, and looking at how we can do better.’

Hoskins said that the Stormers are an example to the other Super Rugby franchises with regard to transformation. The Cape franchise has fielded 10 players of colour (on average) in their first six matches of the 2016 campaign. Most of the other teams have battled to field five or six players of colour on a regular basis.

‘The Stormers have set the bar, and I’m encouraging the other teams to follow suit,’ said the SA Rugby president. ‘What has been pleasing to see is that the improved transformation hasn’t led to a drop in standards [the Stormers have won five of their six matches to date]. So let’s walk the walk and keep heading in the right direction.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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