Keo, in his Independent Newspaper column, asks why Minister of Sport Makhenkesi Stofile is willing to accept the Proteas as representative of a new South Africa, but not the Springboks?
Stofile remains adamant the Springbok World Cup squad does not represent South Africa as a new country.
He said it was proof South African rugby was stuck in the past.
Springbok coach Jake White included one ethnic black African and five coloured players in his World Cup squad of 30 – a number government officials said was not enough.
Rewind a few months to the cricket World Cup. The Proteas receive the following message: “Go out there and represent South Africa with dignity. We believe in you and we will be behind you as you stand toe-to-toe with Australia next week.” Yes, the same Stofile sent this message to a cricket side that did not contain one ethnic black player in the starting XI.
Staying with cricket, government officials and cricket administrators lauded the squad composition ahead of the World Cup. Seven players of colour in 15 was viewed as a dramatic breakthrough for transformation, but only one of those seven players was black African – Makhaya Ntini.
The window-dressing exercise at the cricket World Cup was completed when Roger Telemachus did not play a game, Loots Bosman played in one and the first choice slow bowler Robin Peterson bowled less overs than part-time spinner and captain Graeme Smith.
Prior to the tournament Smith told the media he believed in every player’s ability, but he obviously didn’t, otherwise Peterson would have bowled more. Telemachus did not bowl a ball in the West Indies, Peterson bowled just 72 and Bosman, picked as a batsman, never batted. Cricket’s transformation of the squad was a lie, which the government was willing to embrace.
Transformation in South African rugby since unification in 1991 has been a farce. We all know that, but it does not start with the selection of the national squad. A coach can only choose from the players available and in this light the squad is very representative of South African rugby’s player demographics.
This past weekend only seven ethnic black Africans started in eight premier division Currie Cup sides. Only five of these players are eligible to play for the Boks. When it comes to black African selection White is effectively picking from a pool of less than 10 and not 40 million who make up South Africa’s population.
The government should be condemning South African rugby’s failure to transform and should be demanding change at a domestic level. Instead all the criticism is irrationally levelled at the national squad. Cricket, no better than rugby when it comes to transformation, never feels the wrath of the Sports Minister or his colleagues. Why?
Is it because cricket was traditionally seen as an English sport and rugby as that of the Afrikaner? Does cricket get away with it because of the so-called white liberal association and rugby gets caned because of so-called Afrikaans conservatives?
If South African sport is to be transformed and representative of a new country then the sports ministry’s attitude has to be consistent to all sports, including cricket and soccer.
If Stofile believed so much in a cricket team devoid of black African representation, why can he not believe in a rugby team accused of a similar failing?
The answer could be that he, like rugby, is stuck in the past.
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