You’ll need it

The Spring­bok squad an­nounce­ment had few sur­prises, but was in­formed by trust in in­jured and ag­ing play­ers, all eclipsed by the trans­for­ma­tion furore

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­ Test tick­ets Ac­com­mo­da­tion Spend­ing money To­tal

Heyneke Meyer’s 31-man Spring­bok rugby World Cup squad is a hotch­potch of ques­tion­able think­ing. As pre­dicted, the team falls short on trans­for­ma­tion ideals and, from a purely rugby view­point, there are a num­ber of ques­tion­able se­lec­tions. The out­cry over Meyer – in spite of some se­lec­tions that smack of win­dow dress­ing – fail­ing to meet trans­for­ma­tion tar­gets is sur­pris­ing, as the coach, like his pre­de­ces­sors, has at no time in his ten­ure met what might have been termed ac­cept­able num­bers.

The Mind Games col­umn on Septem­ber 7 last year, ti­tled “Meyer’s story, in black and white”, ques­tioned whether the coach fully un­der­stood the im­per­a­tives of the coun­try he lived in and that he was pick­ing a rod for his own back.

Caught be­tween the un­for­giv­ing his­tor­i­cal de­mand that the Spring­boks have to win matches, and feel­ing that he was judged on that ba­sis, Meyer con­sis­tently opted for ex­pe­ri­ence and es­tab­lished play­ers.

Un­til re­cently, when the Spring­boks lost two matches on their tour to the UK last year, and all three in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, Meyer had an im­pres­sive record.

How­ever, the losses – and the in­ten­si­fied fo­cus on rugby brought about by the im­pend­ing World Cup – switched at­ten­tion to the is­sue of racial trans­for­ma­tion.

Hav­ing not made more of an ef­fort since be­com­ing the na­tional coach in 2012, and also not helped by low num­bers of black play­ers in Su­per Rugby teams, Meyer’s squad that will bid to claim the Webb El­lis Cup for the third time was pre­dictable.

He man­aged to find room for eight play­ers of colour – the inim­itable Bryan Ha­bana, Zane Kirch­ner, Siya Kolisi, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, Trevor Nyakane, JP Pi­etersen and Rudy Paige.

Of these, Paige’s se­lec­tion is the most ob­vi­ous ef­fort to bal­ance the books, as he has not been given a chance in a sin­gle test match, even though he has been part of pre­vi­ous squads. Meyer has pre­ferred Ruan Pien­aar at scrum half with Cobus Reinach as the backup.

The race ques­tion dog­ging the Spring­boks has found im­pe­tus since for­mer coach Peter de Vil­liers – who him­self failed to meet the sup­posed goals – has been given a voice in the press.

De Vil­liers’ crit­i­cism has been harsh and he has been given sup­port by the Trans­for­ma­tion and Anti-racism Rugby Com­mit­tee, a group whose con­stituency is un­known, but whose sec­re­tary and spokesper­son is Asad Bho­rat. A fre­quent racial ag­i­ta­tor – the re­gional sec­re­tary of the Western Cape re­gion of labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu, Tony Ehren­re­ich – is another mem­ber.

What is clear is that Meyer will be un­able to meet the stip­u­la­tions of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) that were set out in its Strate­gic Trans­for­ma­tion Plan re­leased in Fe­bru­ary this year.

It stated that it in­tends to in­crease black rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Spring­bok team to 50% by 2019 but added it would “en­gage with the na­tional coach to in­crease black-player rep­re­sen­ta­tion to 30% (seven play­ers of colour in a match-day squad of 23). From the seven generic black play­ers, two must be black African.”

What is clear is that Meyer will be un­able to meet the stip­u­la­tions of the SA Rugby Union set out in Fe­bru­ary

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