Two rugby analysts and a coach on whether Heyneke Meyer has done enough to transform the Bok team.
Kaunda Ntunja (former Lions flank and SuperSport analyst)
‘The Springbok coach shouldn't be the main person who leads transformation. At international level, he should be working with players who are the finished article. Having said that, if Heyneke is serious about transformation, he should reward black players who are shining lights at senior provincial level by picking them in the Bok side. Jesse Kriel was picked this year at outside centre, ahead of Lionel Mapoe and Juan de Jongh, who has been phenomenal for the Stormers and Western Province over many seasons. A few guys who play 13, who happen to be players of colour, can feel hard done by. Looking at the Springbok set-up, I’m unhappy about the limited opportunities for black players, but it runs much deeper than that. It’s the South African rugby system as a whole. The players who talked to Cosatu should have raised and sorted these issues in-house by speaking to the coach or to someone higher up at Saru before involving a political body. If they had gone that route and were ignored, then I understand to a certain degree why they went to Cosatu. It’s a very tricky situation. In the light of what’s transpiring now, Heyneke is going to be under pressure with team selection this week, but it should never have come to this. More black players should’ve been given a chance without asking or demanding a place in the team. The masses still see rugby as a predominantly white sport and the only way that perception will change is if more black people take up the sport. We need a transformation body to work in tandem with schools and unions in monitoring black youngsters from grassroots level. I’ve only spoken to Heyneke twice and don’t know him personally and while I think he should’ve used the black players more frequently, the general South African rugby system and structure is the problem.’
Kobus Wiese (ex-Bok lock and SuperSport analyst)
‘I agree that transformation within the team has been too slow, but Heyneke Meyer can't shoulder the blame alone. With the Rugby Championship out of reach, the Tests against Argentina presented Meyer with the opportunity to give new players, regardless of colour, a chance in the starting lineup, which he obviously didn't do. But for players to take their grievances to a political entity one game out from a World Cup is not the right way to go. We’re on a four-Test losing streak, troubled by injuries and now the team gets embroiled in an racial saga. This is not how you prepare for a World Cup campaign. I imagine that this will have a profound impact on team unity and will create trust issues between players and management, which is a pity. Yes, those players have a right to speak up, but their timing and approach could’ve been better.’
David Maidza (NMMU and EP Kings Vodacom Cup coach)
‘Whether or not Heyneke Meyer transformed the team, the players and Cosatu could have taken this matter forward after the World Cup. Meyer’s job at this very moment is to ensure the best possible Bok team, selected on merit, runs onto the field at the World Cup. We’re in a unique country and so much needs to be fixed, but at a stage where national pride is at stake, we need players’ focus solidly on winning the trophy. This subject needs to be tackled in a delicate, inclusive manner and for Cosatu to deliver judgment at such a crucial time is irresponsible. People need to understand there’s still work to be done regarding transformation across the board. You can’t demand to see results within the Bok camp, but show no interest in what happens at grassroots level. The only purpose this uproar will serve as at this moment in time, is a hindrance to an already low on confidence Springbok team and that's the last thing they needed.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images