Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New South African Quota law slammed on social media

The late Solly Tyibilika - a rare backrower of color
The continued desire within South African politics of having more black super star rugby players (players of color) than currently and previously has resulted in a new law being implemented by the governing body of South African rugby, the South African Rugby Union (SARU). The policy coincides with the naming of the Springboks side to face Argentina. The match is not only the first fixture for both sides in the 2013 Rugby Championship but is also being used together with a soccer match between South Africa and Burkina Faso to commemorate the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Both matches are to be played on Saturday at Soccer City near Johannesburg

The starting lineup and complete match day twenty-three named by Heyneke Meyer is not one representative of South Africa in terms of population percentages but is, rather, a genuine reflection of the rugby situation - there continues to be significantly more elite white players than players of color. Meyer named a team based on form as shown in Super Rugby and abroad. The result is twelve white players in the starting fifteen and three of color. The players not considered white are wingers Bryan Habana and Bjorn Basson in addition to loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira. The bench features six white players and two of  color with Gurthro Steenkamp named as a replacement prop and Siya Kolisi as a replacement backrower. 

The make-up of the team was based on what Meyer believed to be the best South Africa had to offer which is his duty to both his country and his sport. IRB Regulation 9 is strict in demanding all teams have access to their leading players. It exists precisely so that national teams can field players contracted to professional teams who may have fixtures being played at the same time. Regulation 9, however, says nothing about player quotas and nor does any other regulation in the IRB Charter. As such South Africa is free to, if it desires, enforce a player quota to give preference to players of color as part of the policy of transformation in South Africa

The new policy will see Vodacom Cup teams having to field seven players of color in their twenty-three man match day lineup´s with at least five of them being in the starting fifteen. The policy will also target specific positions due to players of color having long had difficulty in being selected for the Springboks in virtually all positions other than wing. Vodacom Cup matches will now require two of the seven starting players of color to be forwards. SARU president Oregan Hoskins wants the change to enable more black talent to emergence and rise through to Super Rugby, Currie Cup and, ultimately, the Springboks. He said: "The feeling within our organisation is that we had to step in to see more black players come through. The provinces also shared our views. To have certain targets will show that Saru is committed to transformation. The Vodacom Cup is of critical importance to development and it has moved away from its primary aim of providing opportunities to promising young players, especially those of colour. 'The aim is to enlarge the pool of players of colour from which Currie Cup and Super Rugby coaches can pick. Hopefully, it would then also give the Springbok coach more options.

The policy was less than popular within the South African rugby community with fans voicing their opposition and often disgust towards the policy with many beliving it to be rascism in reverse. Others fear consequences for the national game and the test team as it could lead to a drain with many opting to play abroad and the likes of England, Scotland, France, Italy and Ireland capping more white South Africans. Indeed of these European sides fielded white South Africans who had gone through the national system, playing at school level in the republic, in the 2013 Six Nations with many having left South Africa as adults and they did so without such extensive policies as those announced by Hoskins. Future versions of Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger or François Steyn could thus find themselves unable to get an opportunity based on ability due to them not being of color. Consequently the Springboks, in the future, could find it much harder to win World Cup´s.

The policy was less than popular within the South Africa rugby community with fans voicing their opposition and often disgust towards the policy with many believing it to be rascism in reverse. Others fear consequences for the national game and the test team as it could lead to a drain with many opting to play abroad and the likes of England, Scotland, France, Italy and Ireland capping more white South Africans. Indeed all teams fielded South African who had gone through the national system, playing at school level in the republic, in the 2013 Six Nations with many having left South Africa as adults and they did so without such extensive policies as those announced by Hoskins. Future versions of Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger or François Steyn could now find themselves unable to get an opportunity based on ability due to them not being of color. Consequently the Springboks, in the future, could find it much harder to win World Cup´s.

The policy will require not only significant investment and monitoring but also care from the SARU. If it is not handled appropriately then there could be negative implications domestically and internationally for the SARU and the sport itself. If the union intends on bidding for Rugby World Cup 2023 then it will need to make sure there are no controversies that could tarnish the unions reputation.  

1 comment:

  1. Color and race shouldn't be an issue in sport. Everybody wants to win or at least do the best they can to make their country proud. The best players according to stats should be the team to represent their country. I don't think there is much more to say, we want our boys to do well, or better, win!!

    ReplyDelete