Minister wants non-whites to form half of Springboks

JOHANNESBURG • South Africa's Minister for Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, has called for the racial transformation of the national rugby team.

He said on Monday that the Springboks should have at least 50 per cent coloured players at the next Rugby World Cup and threatened to take action if the South Africa Rugby Union (Saru) does not meet the target.

"Saru has four years to take heed of the call," Mr Mbalula said. "It is important to note that half of the next World Cup players need to be players of colour."

The minister said his government would not support the team "if they fail to transform".

"I'm zooming in on rugby because it's as if nothing has been done and we can't bury our heads in the sand," he said.

The heads of the country's associations for football, athletics, netball and cricket, as well as rugby, all signed the Eminent Person's Report on Transformation in Sports on May 18, the minister disclosed.

The Springboks lost 18-20 to arch-rivals and eventual winners New Zealand in the recent Rugby World Cup semi-finals before beating Argentina 24-13 in the third-place play-off.

Before they left for the tournament in England, many South Africans had called for the team's transformation. But coach Heyneke Meyer did not pay heed to it.

His starting line-up had only two black players, Tendai Mtwarira and Bryan Habana, and three non-whites - Siya Kolisi, Lwazi Mvovo and Trevor Nyakane - were among the substitutes.

However, some South Africans want immediate transformation. "The minister makes all kinds of excuses for Saru and the ministry has done very little to have effective transformation in sports," said Sizwe Pamla, spokesman for the Congress of the South African Trade Unions.

Some do not support his assertion. "South Africa is more addicted to the drama of race in rugby than developing its people into becoming a nation of winners," said former Springbok player Kaya Malotana.

The composition of the team has also divided the country along racial lines. "Surely how can the many white people in the Springboks team represent the 90 per cent of black people in the country? It's totally absurd," said University of Johannesburg law student Thando Moyo.

However, his fellow student, Oscar Smith, said: "If the white players are doing good, they should not be replaced with blacks for the sake of transformation. The selection should be based on merit, not colour. After all, if the team win, it's for the country's good, not individuals."

XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Minister wants non-whites to form half of Springboks'. Print Edition | Subscribe