Hoskins has failed the game

MARK KEOHANE, in his weekly Business Day column, says Saru president Oregan Hoskins is to blame for the lack of transformation in South African rugby.

Let’s hope the Springboks’ World Cup defence has a bit more substance than Oregan Hoskins’ defense of the lack of transformation within South African rugby.

Hoskins’ defence, in the six years he has been the president, has been to write a few letters to the 14 provincial presidents and urge them to commit more to transforming the game.

It’s not good enough Mr Hoskins. It never was and it never will be and you need to be held accountable for how you have failed the game.

In 2007 when Springbok coach Jake White named seven players of colour in his World Cup squad of 30 Hoskins told the media it was unacceptable and that it would never again happen in Springbok rugby. In an interview with Rapport newspaper, published on Sunday, Hoskins said he was comfortable with six players of colour in a Tri-Nations squad of 24.

White had two players of colour in his preferred World Cup starting XV. In 2011, Springbok coach Peter De Villiers will have three, a Zimbabwean-born black prop and the same two coloured wingers White invested in four years ago.

When the Boks play Wales in New Zealand in their World Cup opener on 11 September, little would have changed in four years. Zimbabwean born-and-raised prop Beast Mtawarira (for retired Bok legend Os du Randt) is the sum total of the Boks’ transformation since the 2007 World Cup.

If Hoskins was the leader he said he would be he would have changed the situation or he would have resigned. Clearly he is not a leader, let alone the leader.

Nothing will come of the situation because, as with every Bok World Cup squad announcement, the winning is deemed far more important than an irritation like transformation.

Black and coloured administrators have been consistent in showing themselves to be yellow-bellies when it comes to transformation and even more culpable than the white apartheid-type dinosaurs that remain as large a presence as ever in South African rugby administration.

The white dinosaurs believe they are safeguarding their past. The black and coloureds are simply failing their past.

Hoskins escapes media scrutiny because he isn’t confrontational and bullish. What he is, is a president comfortable to do as he is told to do by those who elected him.

Hoskins, a fortnight before the selection of the Boks’ 2011 World Cup squad, has again publicly denounced the lack of transformation in the South African game. But as the leader he hasn’t offered a solution; just like he didn’t in 2007. He is unhappy with transformation but very happy he has done his bit through writing a letter to 14 provincial presidents on the subject every four years.

Transformation is not a short- or long-term project. It is a way of life, but to understand that rugby’s administrators have to live it. They don’t, especially the black and coloured ones who, once elected, are only interested in their first-class travel and not the painful crawl of the pace of transformation.

Hoskins must be made to feel the pressure through constant media reminders of how he has failed himself and the game he purports to love so much. The Portfolio Committee can’t summons rugby’s spineless leaders to Parliament enough to make them explain, if only to be an irritant, but don’t believe for a minute it will have any meaningful impact. Those who make up the Portfolio Committee are as spineless as those they summons¬† in providing action that is true to living transformation and not just talking about the need for it.

The Springboks, with the exception of Schalk Burger and Juan Smith, will be at full-strength against Australia in Durban this weekend after the miracle recovery from injury during a two week training camp in Rustenburg. This match, more than the New Zealand Test a week later, will provide realism about the Boks’ World Cup defence.

New Zealand will rest as many as seven first-choice players against the Boks in Port Elizabeth, but Australia will play their best. The Durban Test will be the only time South Africa’s best plays the best of Australia or New Zealand before the World Cup. It is the relevant Bok Test in the next fortnight because there is a big difference in the All Blacks side that played the Wallabies in Auckland and the one that whipped a South African XV in Wellington.

The pressure is on the Boks in the next fortnight. De Villiers has had no pressure on getting a winning result when playing weakened sides away from home. The demand has to be that the Boks win in Durban and Port Elizabeth – and win well.

But, like with the transformation demand on Hoskins, don’t expect it to be met with delivery.