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ANC angry at lack of black players in SA



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South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is fast losing patience with Springbok bosses over the continued dearth of black players on the rugby field more than a dozen years on from the end of apartheid.

South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins was criticised by parliament’s sports committee this week and told to quit by its influential chairman Butana Komphela as there had been
“no progress in transformation”.

“The best thing is for this leadership to go, so that we can manage rugby in a different way,” said Komphela.

Former president Nelson Mandela’s appearance on the Ellis Park pitch in Johannesburg with the Springboks team after it won the 1995 World Cup, wearing the number six jersey of captain Francois Pienaar, is one of the abiding images of the post-apartheid era.

But the relationship between the sport and African National Congress government has long since cooled with rugby lagging notably behind cricket in terms of the proportion of black players breaking into the top flight.

While seven of the 15 players selected for the upcoming cricket World Cup in the Caribbean were black or coloured, none of the five South African teams playing in the Super 14 competition fielded more than three players of colour in their starting line-up this season.

Springbok coach Jake White has also been lambasted by Komphela in the past for an alleged refusal to select more black players in the Springbok team.

White did pick the young black hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle to lead a Springbok team against a World XV in Leicester in November last year but it now appears the government saw the appointment as masking the slow rate of transformation.

According to ANC member of parliament Cedrick Frolick, the rugby hierarchy has been guilty of poor leadership and lacks a clear transformation blueprint.

Frolick added an enormous breach of trust had occurred between SARU and the sports committee because of the lack of transformation.

SA Rugby does have a Transformation Charter, written by Dr Willie Basson, which outlines the history of the game in South Africa and how the demographics of the northern and southern areas in the country influence the number of black players emerging on the scene.

He has stated it will take some time before the northern unions, like those based in Johannesburg and Pretoria, are at a stage that they no longer have to poach players from the southern unions, like
Cape Town.

The southern unions, historically, produce far more black players than in the north.

Hoskins, who took over from former controversial rugby president Brian van Rooyen just over a year ago, conceded “rugby had a long way to go”.

He told the Beeld newspaper he wasn’t surprised by the committee’s outburst.

“It was my second meeting with the sports portfolio and didn’t differ much from the first … when they also expressed their dissatisfaction with rugby. It didn’t surprise me, they have issues with SA Rugby.”

While there are no defined quotas for the Super 14 teams which take on their counterparts from Australia and New Zealand, there is a gentleman’s agreement that the coaches give as many opportunities to black players as possible.

Most coaches see the “agreement” as having at least two black players in the starting XV and a further two on the bench, numbers Komphela made clear were unacceptable.

While the government itself has so far not joined in the resignation calls, Sports Minister Makenkhesi Stofile told Hoskins’ predecessor Brian van Rooyen and members of his executive in 2005 that they “should get their house in order or the ministry would intervene.”

Senior figures in the game however feel the criticism is unfair, arguing that a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to encourage a new generation of black players.

“Things are h

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