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Friday, January 13, 2006

 

General Discussions: Transformation in SA Rugby Part i

An article by Davids

This is the first of a three part series where we will look at rugby transformation. In this first part we look at the history of the transformation and quota systems in SA Rugby. In the remainder we will look at where we are now and where the best solutions lie.

In the 1999 World Cup semi final against Australia, South Africa fielded in all white rugby team. We lost an agoniser. The final, a week later was a let-down. The match was the end of an era of whites only international rugby for South Africa. Our next match featured a promising youngster on the wing called Breyten Paulse. In a scintillating display of individualistic talent, young Breyten proved why he should have been in the Bok side the previous week, as we demolished a dejected New Zealand team for the wooden spoon third spot.

But important things were taking place back home. Louis Luyt’s iron hand on rugby slipped when he tried to take on the government and specifically Nelson Mandela in acrimonious litigation. He lost. He won the case, but he lost everything else. In a coup, he was ousted from SA Rugby’s leadership. He also lost leadership of Golden Lions RFU. Louis turned his hand to politics and the Silas Nkanunu era started. Morné Du Plessis was brought in. Rian Oberholzer, originally a nepotistic Louis Luyt appointment, somehow kept his place. Vociferous enfante terrible journalist Mark Keohane became media spokesperson for the Boks. The rules changed. Nkanunu and his board sought peace with an angered government. Part of the pact was that no Bok team would ever be whites only again.

Within a season this extended to the Super 12 and provincial teams were also forced into accepting the idea that they needed to field a ‘quota’ of black players.

This new era ushered in one of unmitigated disaster for the Boks. The fractious administration was constantly at war with the unions. Then sports minister Ngkonde Balfour had no time for the white dominated rugby administration and he made his feelings very well known. Although an exceptionally talented lawyer, Nkanunu had two problems. The first was his complete lack of media and communication, and hence leadership skills. The second was his involvement in the law as he sat numerous stints on the bench as a judge. Running SARFU was his orphan job. The face of SA Rugby was Rian Oberholzer.

Oberholzer spoke of quotas at all levels to ensure representation of black people in rugby. New coach, Harry Viljoen followed the quota system with the desultory wing selections of Breyten Paulse. ‘Promising’ black players like Kaya Molatana and Wylie Human found their way onto the Bok bench. The unions and Super 12 franchises followed suit. With the notable exception of the Sharks, who generally appear to struggle to find black players, wing became the position of choice to ‘hide’ black players.

At first the Craven Week responded by insisting teams send their senior team and ‘development’ teams. But Government was not happy. At high school level United Schools Sports Association of South Africa (USSASA) imposed strict quotas on Craven Week teams. All the Craven week teams. The development teams disappeared.

Ngkonde Balfour threatened commissions of enquiry. The quotas increased. Now we had both wings filled with black players.

The Nkanunu regime plodded along. Nkanunu did not run SA rugby. He was its token black face. Rian Oberholzer ran the rugby. We fired Harry Viljoen. Then we appointed Rudolph Straueli. Things went down from there.

In 2003 about the only certainty in the Bok team selection was that Breyten Paulse would be on the wing. At the end of RWC 2003 the fans were fed-up with the poor performances. Government was fed-up with the one “black wing” syndrome. The media was fielding Kamp Staaldraad. The administrators were backed into a corner. Rian Oberholzer unwisely supported Rudolph Straueli to stay on as coach. The vultures were gathering. The media spurred them on. Brian Van Rooyen lead the coup with the support of almost everyone. Rian, Silas and Rudolph all fell on their swords before the axe could fall. Mark Keohane fled and published a tell-all book.

The new watchword was “Transformation”. “Quotas “ was banned in favour of the more politically correct word.

Ngkonde Balfour annoyed government. They posted him to the less influential Correctional Services. Makinkhesi Stofile became Minister of Sport. His brotyher, Mike, became Brian Van Rooyen’s deputy. Controversial André Markgraaf was the other. He made promises of a 14 team Currie Cup. He made promises of transformation. He made promises of change.

In the meantime and almost unseen, our Under 19 team, was selected for the IRB World Cup in 2004 in Durban. The team was majority black. And they won. The Under 21’s similarly representative, followed suit. In came Jake White, former coach of the junior team and a man with powerful credentials in transformation. He started off with two black players. By the end of the year he selected several up and coming provincial players for the Boks. Tim Dlulane, Solly Tybilika and Jongi Nokwe. The government moved the goal posts. “Coloured players” are no longer good enough. By 2005 he had played one match with six black players in the starting 22.

Transformation was firmly embedded. BUT problems were brewing at the top. Brian Van Rooyen found himself implicated in several high profile money scandals. The unions in the areas where black rugby lived, the Eastern Cape, all had massive financial and corporate governance problems. SARU moved away from their corporatisation drive under Oberholzer to a more staid bureaucratic one under Van Rooyen. Mike Stofile and André Markgraaf had a number of spats in the national media. Markgraaf resigned. Makhenkesi Stofile, himself a former rugby player, made unpleasant noises about the speed of transformation. The presidents of Griquas, SWD and Border were ousted. EP saw its president the victim of a probe and his union run through a SARU committee.

The time had come for change again.
Comments:
Very informative and accurate article – just so sad that we have to live through this traumatic period of S.A. rugby history  
I tend to disagree JJ, this is exactly the time in which I want to live. So much of what's happening at this moment, is of a very high importance to the future. Every step we take is an exiting one into an unsure future. Shit in the 60's they only had to worry about keeping "die swart gevaar" at bay. Now we also have this, but "die swart gevaar" is the All Blacks!  
The issue was that the transformation of the early years was reactive and disorganised and met big time resistance too.


Thanks guys
 
Davids,

Great article. Just wish they would wake up and smell the roses. No quick fix for this one.
 
Donner


In all honesty my present employer is in exactly the same position.

After 10 years of ignoring 1994, they've now woken up and smelt the coffee.


I proposed REVOLUTIONARY measures


I got told EVOLUTION.....

It's too late for that.


The same at SARU. They spent the first ten years post 94 doing noting and paying lip service. Now they're going to pay for it and the people in the firing line are the players....
 
Exactly!!!!!

Too busy lining their own pockets it seems.

The sad part is that they don't realise it is one of those feel good things. If you done it correctly from the start, you would have got into bed each night with the knowledge that you made a differance. Now it is too late.

Ja OK I dream of world peace :-D
 
A very enjoyable and informative read.  
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