Misconceptions and prejudices related to the subject of so-called ‘quota’ selections must be eradicated if we are to move forward as a rugby nation, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
On Saturday, just three players of colour started the Springboks’ Test against Wales. Yet, in the aftermath of another disappointing defeat, there was the usual routine in certain sectors on social media where transformation was touted as the reason for the Boks’ woes.
It boggles my mind.
How is it that some 25 years after the end of isolation we still live in a society of seclusion rather than inclusion? How is it that prejudice still subverts reality?
The real facts are that SA Rugby has agreed to transformation targets with the aim of achieving 50% representation by 2019. It’s something that is eminently achievable if we begin to take off our tinted glasses.
The fact remains that there are more than enough talented players of colour in South Africa to ensure that a demographically representative Springbok team can become a reality based purely on merit.
If there are any doubts about this, take a look at the quality of this group of players below that I’ve put together in a makeshift team, and then tell me there is not enough talent to work with.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Oupa Mohoje, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Ox Nche, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Curwin Bosch.
I picked that team without even finding space for Springboks Uzair Cassiem, Nizaam Carr, Dillyn Leyds and Courtnall Skosan, nor that of Blitzboks star Seabelo Senatla. And the list goes on.
Throughout our Super Rugby franchises and indeed the Springbok Sevens setup, there are players of colour who have all the capabilities in the world.
This has been achieved despite the desperate struggles of the Kings franchise, which was meant to be the source for tapping into a hotbed of black talent down in the Eastern Cape.
This has been achieved despite top rugby schools across South Africa failing to play their part when it comes to backing players of colour in a transformed team that would then filter up to senior levels.
This has been achieved despite a slow rate of transformation that has seen not nearly enough black players given opportunities at Springbok level in recent years, and even at South Africa’s leading Super Rugby franchise, the Lions.
This has been achieved despite the fact that many talented young black players grew up in households or with family backgrounds where rugby was not a way of life, nor was there a commonplace opportunity to send a promising kid to a reputable rugby school.
That was primarily a byproduct of an apartheid system that destroyed equal opportunity, and that cannot just be arrogantly overlooked in our South African society and sports circles.
It’s time that we stopped fostering hate and mistakenly blaming all-important transformation when it comes to the assessment of a South African rugby system that has a whole host of far greater and unrelated issues.
It’s time we provided players of all colour with equal and fair opportunity. It can be achieved through selections based purely on merit. Then the results may just finally enable us to move forward in a unified manner instead of continuing to incite conflict as a largely divided rugby nation.