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Mbeki dragged into White v SARU saga

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The unpleasant public spat between Springbok coach Jake White and his bosses at the South African Rugby Union (SARU) took another intriguing turn on Sunday with reports that White is now looking to President Thabo Mbeki to intervene.

According to the the SABC, White has secured a meeting the country’s president for Friday.

However, the presidency was on Sunday unable to immediately confirm the meeting.

Mukoni Ratshitanga, the President’s spokesperson, said he would be able to check whether the meeting was scheduled on Monday.

This come after another weekend of high drama surrounding the Bok coach – with reports that he was somehow linked to an assault on a journalist, as well as suggestions that radical changes are set to sweep through South African rugby following the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.

According to a report in the Johannesburg Saturday Star newspaper at the weekend, the first Springbok team of 2008 will consist of at least 10 black and coloured players.

But Sunday’s developments put the weekend’s events into perspective.

South African rugby and the country’s politics are intimately intertwined and decisions are no longer being taken for rugby reasons.

Jonathan Stones, the managing director of SA Rugby (the commercial arm of SARU), confirmed that he was aware of the proposed meeting between White and the Presidency.

SA Rugby spokesperson Rayaan Adriaanse, however, was unable to confirm it. He did, however, confirm reports that an investigation would take place into the alleged assault on a tabloid journalist at a Sandton nightspot.

There were claims that White was somehow involved in the alleged assault. He had a heated argument with the journalist, which was then broken up – after which the journalist was assaulted by a third party.

Charges were laid at the police station.

This comes hardly a week after it was reported that Brian Biebuyck, White’s former lawyer, had accused the rugby hierarchy of trying to secure ANC and government control of rugby.

The allegation by Biebuyck surfaced after the controversy over the inclusion of Luke Watson in the Springbok team.

There are rumours and allegations flying in all directions and White, no doubt, would like the President to step in and calm the situation.

A meeting between the Springbok coach and the President could clear up the rumours concerning government’s plans for the sport.

Reports that there will be a takeover of the Springbok team with a new coach, captain and quotas being introduced have caused unrest over the weekend.

According to the report in the Saturday Star, not only will the first Springbok team of 2008 will consist of at least ten black and ‘coloured’ players, but that White and captain John Smit will also be replaced.

Peter de Villiers is according to the report, set to become the country’s first black Springbok coach and the side is set to be captained by Luke Watson.

Watson, the 23-year-old Western Stormers captain, was recently included in the Springbok training squad at the insistence of SARU president Oregan Hoskins, his deputy Mike Stofile and chairperson of the Board of SA Rugby Mpumelelo Tshume.

Watson made his international debut for the Springboks against Samoa at Ellis Park on Saturday. The Boks won 35-8.

The openside flanker is the son of former anti-apartheid activist Dan ‘Cheeky’ Watson, who still has close ties with the ANC.

The Watson family are also closely associated with Zola Yeye, the Springbok team manager.

Rugby bosses in South Africa are unhappy with the slow rate of transformation and, according to the Saturday Star, believe the only way to “Africanise” a sport which has been dominated by the minority white population for over 100 years is to take radical steps.

De Villiers, a former Currie Cup coach w

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