“It starts at the roots: from the bottom up.”
Jurie Roux, the South African Rugby Union’s new CEO, does not plan on wasting time when it comes to changing people’s perception of what ‘true’ transformation is.
Jan de Koning, Rugby365
Roux, who will assume the operational leadership of the organisation on October 1, was officially introduced to the media in Cape Town on Monday; having, on Friday, been announced as the CEO designate.
The current Chairman of Stellenbosch made it clear that he would “take guidance” from the Executive Council on the immediate direction, but one of his first jobs would be to complete the amalgamation of SARU and SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd.
However, as always, transformation featured prominently at Monday’s briefing; where the 39-year-old showed off the skill that has made him one of the most dynamic administrators in South Africa.
Roux – who turns 40 soon – wasted no time in tackling the perception that transformation was just about numbers on the field.
FROM THE BOTTOM UP
He also dismissed the notion that transformation was an issue that could be forced at the top-end of the game, saying it works only “from the bottom up”.
“People always harp on about transformation,” Roux said, adding: “When they come to transformation they get [stuck on] to one thing and that is the number of players other than the colour of white that is on the field.
“That is not the only thing. You need to transform people’s minds.
“That is probably one of the best things we have done at Stellenbosch and that is to transform people’s minds.”
Roux, in his guise as a Stellenbosch rugby administrator and the Varsity Cup Board Chairman, used the Maties’ victorious Varsity Cup team as an example of “true transformation”.
“At Stellenbosch there is no such thing as a quota or anything like that. In the Varsity Cup competition we never fielded anything less that seven non-white players in the matchday 22.
“In fact, we played eight non-white players in the  Final – each and every player was on the field on merit. Somewhere we are doing something right in terms of that [transformation].”
Roux believes the key to the success of Stellenbosch is that they started in the areas where development was needed.
“We have this great thing run by Russel Carelse, we call it the Maties Mitchell’s Plain Academy. [We have] 127 schools throughout Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Langa playing in our Academy.
“And, typical of Stellenbosch, other than winning the Varsity Cup, we don’t put that on the billboards everywhere… we just do that.
“[You may ask] what are we getting? We are reaping the fruits of the players coming through to Stellenbosch to study. But not only that, we are changing lives. That player, most probably, would never have studied at Stellenbosch and would never have been seen and that is how you do it.
“You’ve got to start from the bottom up… You’ve got to have people who believe in what they are doing and that really want to do it.”
He also hit out at the ‘traditional’ hit-’n-run transformation clinics that are hung on billboards, but achieve no real success in the long term.
“If they have no passion and they run what I call the ‘coke-’n-hotdog shows’, then you might as well leave it,” declared Roux.
“What that means is that you get a previously disadvantaged player out for an hour on Saturday, he gets a hotdog, a T-Shirt and a coke and now you think you’ve changed their lives.
“You have done nothing other than to expose him to an hour’s rugby.
“You need to start from the roots up and that is how you transform.”
He added that the system used to transform Stellenbosch could be used to the benefit of other clubs, universities and – eventually – filter itself through to provincial and national level.
“I would just be stupid if I did not use all the skills and abilities I have gained over the last 16 years,” he said, when asked about transformation at provincial, Super 14 and Springbok level – where the numbers game is still very important in some quarters.
“If I’ve got something from Stellenbosch, yes, if I’ve got something from anybody else I would try to use that where it is to the benefit of the company [SARU] and where it adds value… I have no doubt about that.
“I think I do have additional skills [obtained] through the processes that we had to go through at Stellenbosch. I had awesome mentors – some people who are very committed to not only transforming Stellenbosch, but transforming whatever we do at Stellenbosch, be that rugby or anything else.
“There are a lot of competent people and I will use what I’ve learnt from them.”
Crucially, however, Roux added: “It was never me that transformed Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch transformed itself.
“I will try and use some of that in everything I do at SARU.”
Roux also spoke about the need to uplift club rugby, but said that it was important to go back to the “roots” of the game.
He dismissed the notion that SARU was just about professional rugby.
“There are a lot of things that I have seen that SARU are doing at different levels.
“Yes, club rugby is always a challenge.
“However, we must understand that we must introduce kids to sport in general and then try to convince them to play rugby.
“If you lose your kids, if you lose your roots – schoolboy level and your varsities and your clubs – then rugby will die.
“Irrespective of what is happening at the moment, I would expect that would be a focus and that would be a priority.”
As a loyal club man, and given his Varsity Cup ties, Roux made no secret of his high regard for club rugby and he concluded: “I would be lying if I said I would not be trying to do something for clubs.
“However, I don’t decide on competitions, I will take my lead from the executive on that, but I will do my utmost for the clubs.
“After all, we need the clubs to survive in this country.”