The Saru Sacos Legends have criticised All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in an open letter for questioning the Springboks’ transformation policy.
The South African Rugby Union (founded 1966) was a non-racial governing body for rugby union in South Africa.
In an interview with Peter Bills for his recently published book, The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team, Hansen insisted in mid-2017 that the Springboks would be strong enough opposition for the All Blacks if they picked their best team.
‘They are the only team in sport I know that doesn’t pick its best team,’ said Hansen. ‘I understand what they are trying to do but … Nelson Mandela understood it better than anyone else. He knew that the Springboks was a team that could unite the nation. I still believe it is. If they got things right and allowed it to develop naturally, it would. And you would get the right people in the team. In the end, it would be a multicultural team.
‘Rugby wasn’t a black man’s sport, but it was the sport that would unify the country in a way that no other sport or business could. Now I think that unity isn’t there so much. As a nation, it has got such a lively history and it has created a whole lot of things we will never understand, because we were never part of it.
‘There is a lot of ill-feeling. But the thing they don’t want to fall into is actually reversing that. That is a pretty political statement but when you look at the rugby, one of my great mates, Heyneke Meyer, found out that having to select a team based on what colour a man’s skin is, goes against all the principles and spirit of sport. What it does is create a situation where 1) you are not picking the best team and 2) the guys that get picked are thinking, “Am I here because of the reasons of quota or because I am good enough?”
The Saru Sacos Legends responded to Hansen with an open letter.
‘We are obviously irritated and feel a sense of ire at those who make such simplistic pronouncements and construe these to be indicative of a hackneyed view which shows complete disdain for the hurt and pain experienced by those from the former non-racial Saru Sacos rugby stable,’ the group wrote.
‘While we do not wish to take anything away from your celebrated successes and greatly admired astuteness as a rugby coach, we do offer a word of caution … where rugby men start to venture on terrain such as pronouncing reasons for other countries’ poor performance on a sports field.’