Opinions, Springboks, Super Rugby

Sharks trump in transformation

The story missed in the media among the celebration of the Springboks’ wonderful Laureus achievement, was the one lauding Sharks CE Eduard Coetzee as the ‘Champion of Transformation’, writes Mark Keohane in his Cape Times Keo’s Corner column.

Siya Kolisi once again inspired at the annual Laureus Sporting Awards when representing the Springboks as the winner of the global sports team of 2019.

It was a magnificent moment for the Springboks, for their captain, their World Cup-winning players, World Cup-winning coach and SA Rugby Union Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, the coaching and management members and the leadership of South African Rugby in the President Mark Alexander and CE Jurie Roux.

The Springboks, and by extension, South African Rugby, sat on top of the world earlier this week in Berlin, Germany.

Take a bow all concerned.

For most this would be the rugby story of the week, perhaps even of the year, but the story that wasn’t in any mainstream media publication and certainly wasn’t in any rugby orientated digital, social media or print platform was the one in which the New Frame profiled Sharks CE Eduard Coetzee as the ‘Champion of Transformation’

Coetzee, schooled at Afrikaans Hoerskool in Pretoria (AFFIES), played for the Sharks and then spent eight years in France. He is married into an English family, he is fluent in French, naturalised to France and all three his kids were born in France.

But he is back in South Africa by choice, at the helm of the Sharks and within six months of his tenure has led a revolution when it comes to transformation in South African rugby.

Please go online and read the full New Frame interview with Coetzee. If it doesn’t inspire you, doesn’t make you want to make a contribution to a beautiful and happy South Africa and doesn’t instil in you a belief of what is possible, then best you get help.

Coetzee’s interview, so candid, raw and mesmerising is the rugby story of 2020. Finally, there is a CE within South African Rugby’s professional landscape that actually gets it, that actually believes it, lives it and is at the forefront of taking a belief and turning it into a reality.

I am a disciple of Stormers coach John Dobson. He lives transformation, believes it is the only way to live in South Africa and his Stormers squad embodies Dobson’s philosophy that when you think the Stormers, think #TrueColours … a squad true to themselves, to their province, their region, their community and the collective that makes the Western Cape so special … #TrueColours

In Kwazulu-Natal, Coetzee is something unique when it comes to a Super Rugby CE’s living of transformation.

He declared that the most common language among all players in the Sharks is English, so that is the language spoken within the squad. He also stated, in a 286-page, 90 000 word thesis on transformation, that he does indeed see colour and if we never saw colour we could never be inclusive, given the history of South Africa.

Coetzee’s view is that development programmes are disrespectful and racist. AMEN brother.

Coetzee posted on Twitter: ‘Receiving plenty of messages on social media around diversity of our team … what’s the recipe? We see colour, we celebrate colour! We celebrate diversity and drive inclusivity.’

AMEN brother.

In this most brilliant of interviews with New Frame, Coetzee spoke of transformation not being him taking the sport to people who never knew it but reigniting the flame to people who always knew it and saying ‘sorry’ and asking ‘how do we fix it?’

Coetzee details he left South Africa rugby for France because he felt he had no future as a white player in the country of his birth. He acknowledges the ignorance of this thinking but stresses that only education can kill off ignorance.

‘I needed to do the study because it is research-based. In 1896 a coloured rugby club was formed in Griqualand West. That is a fact; not a story. There of a lot of lies that say coloured and black people never played rugby. A lot of white people believe that, and that’s not because they are racist. That’s what we (whites) were taught, which ties back to what I said, that you don’t know what you don’t know,’ said Coetzee.

AMEN Brother.

AMEN Eduard Coetzee.

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