African rugby in the era of democracy has a sad history of promises made and quickly and casually broken.
They argue that, despite the by-now tiresomely regular hand-onheart assurances of a commitment to transformation and the promise of new opportunities for black players, far too few black players have been given these opportunities.
Of course, Saru is not exclusively to blame for this.
Government – at national, provincial and local level – is the biggest culprit for sporting codes such as rugby not having gone through a genuine process of transformation.
The ANC dragged the non-racial sporting codes to the negotiating table. Far too many issues that were of genuine concern to the non-racial sports fraternity were blithely ignored. These were matters, it was said, that could be discussed at another time. Far too much was given up by those representing the non-racial codes in these negotiations.
The racist sports codes, represented in many cases by apartheid supporters, sat back and with very little effort were allowed almost immediate entry into international sport.
It was far too easy for them. They gave up nothing. They made no real effort to help build a new South Africa via sport.
Due mainly to the commitment of the “Father of the Nation”, Nelson Mandela, to reconciliation, the national rugby body, was allowed to keep the Springbok as its national symbol.
During South African democracy’s honeymoon period, a massive feelgood factor, coupled with what some people described as “Madiba Magic”, saw the Springboks sweep to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
But even then, ominous warning signs were emerging.
The most significant of these was that just one black player – Chester Williams – was deemed good enough for the Springbok run-on team.
Over the years, the administration of the game in South Africa has proved to be hugely problematic.
Because of political and social issues, among them the yawning gap between rich and poor – and in this context, see it as the gap between “white and black” – grow even wider, it has become difficult to build a reservoir of black players to play at the highest level.
The demographics are much better in the age groups – but somewhere between schools and provincial levels far too many black players are lost to the game.
Other problems have also emerged.
During the SA Council on Sport era, impressive numbers of black
New Zealand has always had support from local rugby fans.