|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
. 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 Argentina South
Africa and to commemorate the
95th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Both matches are to be played on Saturday at Burkina Faso Soccer City near
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
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 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
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 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.