‘I have no regrets’

Regan Hoskins on his Saru presidency, the Southern Kings and transformation.

What’s been your greatest achievement as Saru president?
That’s not for me to say. The media and the public can decide.

And your greatest disappointment?
I honestly don’t have any disappointments. I’ve enjoyed my time in South African rugby.

What’s been your greatest challenge?
I think the greatest challenge for the leadership of South African rugby is to keep controversy to a minimum.

Do you have any regrets?
No, none at all. I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been magic.

What about the Luke Watson selection saga in 2007?
I have no regrets. It isn’t easy working in South African rugby as we operate in a political and economic environment and rugby has a big social context in this country. I am human and I’ve made mistakes, but tough times build character.

Why did SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd and Saru decide to become one organisation?
The new Income Tax Act doesn’t allow sports organisations to have two arms anymore and we had until the end of the year to comply. However, we are happy to bring our amateur and professional entities together because it will allow us to streamline our activities, improve our operations and avoid duplication.

Will there be any job losses because of the merger?
Not that I know of, although I can’t predict how employees will react to it.

As Sanzar chairman, you have been very involved in the Southern Kings’ push for Super Rugby inclusion. Why did Saru spend R10 million to scrap the Spears, only to support them again as the Kings?
I don’t know where you got that figure from. Saru gave the Spears R6 million so they could operate as a franchise.

But Saru and the Spears battled in court. How much did that cost your organisation?
It was quite exorbitant … a few million …

So R10 million is a pretty accurate figure?
Perhaps, but the way you initially phrased it suggested the money wasn’t accounted for, which it was.

Were the Spears scrapped because Saru lost the bid to host the 2011 World Cup and no longer needed government’s support?
I wasn’t the Saru president at the time [Brian van Rooyen was] so I can’t answer that.

Did Saru under your leadership have to back the Kings in order to get government’s support for the 2015 and 2019 World Cup bids?
No, I don’t know where you heard that.

Did government ever say that it would only support the World Cup bid if Saru pushed for the Kings’ inclusion?
Not that I’m aware of, no.

Do you feel betrayed by the IRB, seeing as it encouraged Saru to bid again for the World Cup?
Perhaps there was that feeling at first but we have made peace with the outcome. We wish England and Japan the best.

Did the IRB suggest to you or anyone at Saru that South Africa would probably get the 2023 World Cup, having missed out twice in a row?
No, no one’s said anything like that.

How can South Africa demand a sixth Super Rugby team when the Lions and Cheetahs have performed so poorly in recent seasons?
Our statistics dispute that assertion.

But the Lions came 12th this season and the Cheetahs last.
You have to take the travel schedule into account when you look at our teams’ performances. This year the Cheetahs had arguably the toughest schedule in the history of the competition. Australia’s teams also don’t all do well – the Reds came second last this year.

Why not make room for the Kings from 2011 by having the Cheetahs and Lions play as the Cats again?
I’m sure that is one of the options being discussed by various people. But we must remember that they tried playing as the Cats before and it didn’t work.

EPRFU president Cheeky Watson says Saru should have fought harder to secure the Kings’ inclusion in an expanded Super Rugby tournament.
I’m not sure what context he said that in … he may have been talking about their inclusion from 2011, which was always going to be difficult because they would have to be in the Australian conference. The conferences could be expanded from 2012 or 2013 which would allow the Kings to join the South African conference.

But did Watson have a point?
Cheeky shouldn’t have spoken to the media about it, he should have raised his concerns with the President’s Council, of which he is one of the members.

What’s your relationship with him like?
We have a good relationship.

Would you like to see the Kings playing in the Currie Cup Premier Division?
My personal views on the subject don’t matter, as the President’s Council will make a decision. I just want to see the Kings up and running as a team.

How many teams do you think should be in the Currie Cup Premier Division?
This is a very sensitive subject, and again, my personal views don’t matter as the President’s Council will decide.

Let’s move on to transformation issues. Is there an unofficial quota for the Boks?
No.

Have you ever put pressure on Peter de Villiers to pick more players of colour?
No.

Does it concern you that Beast Mtawarira is the only ethnic black player in the Springbok starting XV and he is Zimbabwean-born?
No. We must stop being paranoid about numbers. Look how many ethnic black South Africans have Springbok jerseys and support the team.

Why did you feel the need to say that the Bok end-of-year tour squad had been selected on merit? It gave the impression that it wasn’t.
I don’t remember saying that … was it at the press conference after the squad announcement? Oh yes, what I said was that I didn’t know that there were 15 players of colour in the squad and I thanked the journalist for pointing it out to me.

Doesn’t your job require you to be aware of that figure?
My job is to make sure that transformation is happening at lower levels of the game, not to count numbers.

SARU1209cv001Would you have noticed if there were only four or five players of colour in that squad?
I’m not going to speculate on something that didn’t happen. I knew that the Bok squad would have several players of colour because they have been playing brilliant rugby.

By Simon Borchardt

– This article first appeared in the December issue of SA Rugby magazine. The January-February issue goes on sale next week.