Transforming sport about more than numbers

This is the title of an article which appeared in Business Day yesterday. I must admit that this is probably the first time where the honourable Minister of Sport and Recreation and I are on the same page.

Jurie Roux

Jurie Roux

Speaking at the South African Rugby Union (Saru) indaba in Johannesburg, held to discuss fast-tracking transformation in the sport, Mbalula praised Saru for organising the event.

“They are the first federation to have taken it upon themselves to convene a transformation indaba. They are the first to admit there are inherently deep-seated weaknesses to realise transformation.”

‘…Mbalula said transformation should not be trivialised by merely looking at the numbers.

“Today when national teams are selected, the question of colour becomes an issue to a point where it is vulgarised and is reduced to racism,” he said.

“It is polarising society, to begin to question a national team on how many black people are there, how many white people are there, when the national team represents South Africa as a whole. What are our responsibilities as administrators and as the people who run the sport?

“It is to ensure that full transformation is realisable. There must never, in the next 20 years, be a question about the national team.”

I particularly like the use of the word “realisable”. Past efforts to force change just met with resistance. Think of when they wanted to remove the Springbok. I think it was Steve Tswete who proposed this, only to be vetoed by Madiba.

On Naas’s other hand, look at the wonderful bonding that took place when SA rugby went to Soweto. The goodwill is there, and the willingness to effect change, but not when it is forced down your throat.

Players that have been given an opportunity to display their skills based on merit, rather than colour, have become an integral part of the team. Nobody regards Habana, JP Pietersen or the Beast as anything other than a merit selection.

The concern of Kevin Pietersen, that he would not be selected to the Protea side because he is white, is no longer valid. Actually, on this one, I think we were rather lucky, given his impact on team unity.

Mbalula made another statement which concurs with my views, previously expressed on these pages:

Mbalula said rugby could become an even stronger global player if it utilised the larger populace. “Rugby should utilise its full potential by transforming and thus taking advantage of the diverse population of rugby players in South Africa,” he said.

“If this happens, there is no doubt that rugby can play an important role in nation building and fostering unity and social cohesion.”

The solution lies in making the opportunities realisable. Here, the government has an equal responsibility. Let us hope and pray that these words, spoken at the indaba, will be converted to action, after the event.

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