Dougie Oakes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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