Sport and politics
It was reported last year that the SARU president said
“If I look at the five big provinces, that has to be a worrying factor – it is a worrying factor because those are the provinces that are providing the Springbok team with players.”
The Saru President added that they often have brainstorming sessions and get-togethers about transformation. “It is an imperative of our society and rugby is part of that imperative.”
My take on why there are so few black players in the top teams
It is merely my opinion and not written in stone in eleven languages! Use it, don’t use it.
To my mind the problem is more about integration, rather than, or before, transformation.
While forcing teams to field 7 players of colour in Vodacom cup teams is admirable, I think it’s misguided.
Until South Africa is a fully integrated society, and here I’m not talking about the middle and upper class people of all colours living in the suburbs, but more about all the millions of people living in their own “areas” or townships, the quantity and quality of players coming through the system will be below expectations.
For many years the black players were sidelined by the policies of the government of the time and structures were put in place to maintain this imbalance. With the group areas act, various population groups were forced to live “in their own areas, rugby clubs were started but could only compete against each other. Herein lies the main reason or cause of the lack of players. A segregated society has segregated clubs simply by the nature of where the clubs are situated.
By doing this rugby became a hated “white” sport and the masses of black South Africans played soccer everywhere. Let’s face it, it is a lot less dangerous to play soccer on tarred streets and untarred, sparsely grassed patches where shards of glass and stones, sticks and other bits and pieces posed a threat to ones health. Rugby needs to be marketed to those who see it as a white sport. Promote the sport in predominantly black schools.
The majority of white schools and some black schools had sports facilities and rugby was compulsory in most of these schools. Now, there are only a few schools that have rugby for a sport option with a lot of children opting for hockey or soccer, and most schools don’t even have physical education as a subject. The pool of players coming through the system, are therefore fewer. There are not many families of any colour who can afford the fees of these “rugby” schools.
Why do the smaller provinces have more black players than the big five? I think it is because rugby is now a business and any manager worth his salt wants the best available employees who can help them to win in their particular field, so, in the case of rugby, this is what they have done. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that there are thirty players in each of the big five, this would make a 150 player pool. So out of the thousands of youngsters playing rugby only 150 will make it to the top. Out of those 150 around 30 will make it to the Springboks. If a manager selects any players who are not the best in their field irrespective of colour, and settles for less he will not be the manager for long. If an excellent player is left out because he is black, the manager will not be doing his job properly and should be fired. Excellence in their field is the prerequisite for selection, if you want to win.
The genuine rugby fan could not care less what colour a player is, all we want to do is win. If you read the blogs and comments you can easily pick that up. It is the politicians and racists who have a problem with the number of black players in a team. Putting any player into a team where he is not good enough will immediately draw criticism from the genuine fans, which will in turn be seen as prejudiced, merely because of skin colour. This will only exacerbate the situation, instead of healing it.
The pool of top players in all sports is limited, that is why there are fewer white guys in the soccer teams, black girls in the hockey team, black guys in the swimming team or white guys winning the distance events in athletics. Let the sportsmen choose where and what they play and transform from school level by providing sports facilities. It’s no use calling it a rugby field at a school that chooses to play soccer or hockey on it.
Politicians should stick to politics, please stop making sport a political pawn that can be screwed up as much as the politics and politicians of this country. Spend your energy getting the, education, health, service delivery, corruption etc etc under control before you stuff up anything else.