Rugby is seemingly controlled by a secret (white) mafia, well that is the view of Gary Boshoff in his latest News24 column
So transformation has been forced back onto SARU’s agenda after Happy Ntshingila of ABSA dared to pass a comment on the dominating paleness of the Currie Cup teams on display in the 2010 Currie Cup Competition.
I mean, how could the man be so stupid? He should have known better then to challenge the self-proclaimed holy grail of white sport in South Africa, especially when it comes to transformation and representation in the white man’s beloved pastime. How could he have been so naïve to think that just because ABSA plans to invest close to R200 million in rugby (over the next four years) that he, as Executive Director of Marketing and Corporate Affairs of ABSA, could suggest that his partners address the need for more and greater transformation in the sport? He should have known by now that these guys are only interested in his money and not his opinion!
In the commercial world of sport, money speaks loader then politics, tradition or religion and so it didn’t come as a surprise when just as soon as Afriforum started with an SMS campaign to protest against Happy Ntshingila’s comments, the bank’s deputy CEO Louis Von Greunen denied that ABSA was in favour of re-introducing quotas in rugby. He was obviously scared that the bank’s objective comments about the slow pace of transformation in rugby will cost the bank clients and thus impact on its profit margins.
Nevertheless, ABSA and for that matter its major shareholder, Barclays, also realises the importance of delivering on the mandate of a transforming South Africa, not only in the economic and political spheres of society, but also in the socio-cultural life of the populace, of which sport forms a central part. There is no way that ABSA can be seen to bankroll a sports organisation that still shows a reluctance to embrace the national imperative of transformation. I can just imagine the intensity of the debate.
Perhaps this deliberate attempt by ABSA to facilitate change in the structures of SARU will lead to more decisive action on transformation in the near future?
The challenge of transformation in rugby has been a long time coming, believe me. I was there when the first salvos were fired back in 1992 when the various federations reached a record of understanding on the imperative of transformation. Since then we have had an accumulation of promises and excuses that has as of yet not produced the much talked about representation on the provincial and national level of the game. Representation at junior level has been adequate for many years, yet the majority of these players don’t make it through to their provincial sides, suggesting a glass ceiling for black players.
However, the truth is that even in provinces with black senior coaches and selectors, black representation has not grown at a faster pace than elsewhere, in turn suggesting an all round scarcity of quality black talent. Whatever the reason, as of late SARU has not shown the necessary urgency when dealing with this challenge, it has primarily been left up to the provinces to do their own thing.
Nevertheless, it was still very amusing (to me at least) to read about Hoskins’ letter to the provinces calling on them to address the important matter of transformation. This letter, obviously prompted by the comments of Happy Ntshingila does obviously not carry any urgency and will have little impact as Hoskins’ administration has had their heads buried in the sand on transformation for so long it is not hard to see the true motivation behind the letter – it was money (ABSA’s money) more than conviction that was talking (almost like Robert Mugabe agreeing to democratic elections to qualify for economic assistance from South Africa).
Transformation in rugby has never only been about numbers on the field of play, it has always been about fundamental change: it was and is about the way the game is managed; about who gets elected and the power relations that governs the various alliances in this important institution of South African society. The fact of the matter is that while the majority of rugby players and supporters in this country are black, the sport is still run and controlled by a small minority who through secret alliances control who gets elected into the decision-making structures of the sport.
Until these broader and fundamental transformational issues are addressed transparently and with the genuine intention to change rugby for the better, the sport will remain a contested terrain in South Africa.