SA Rugby boss Alexander slams ‘white’ teams

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Six of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup winning starting lineup last year were black.

South African Rugby president Mark Alexander. Picture: sascoc.co.za

JOHANNESBURG – South African Rugby president Mark Alexander has slammed some of the seven Super Rugby Unlocked outfits for fielding too many white players in starting line-ups.

In a letter to the teams, which AFP has seen, he pointed out the Pumas from northeastern city Mbombela had chosen only two black squad members for a match against the Stormers last month.

Alexander also said he failed to justify to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa why all seven coaches in the tournament are white.

Six of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup winning starting lineup last year were black.

“The success of the World Cup is not a get out of the jail free card for those who oppose (racial) transformation. It is the opposite — proof that there is no excuse for under-performance,” he said.

That figure would probably have been higher had tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane not been injured during the tournament and forced to return home.

“These are unprecedented times, but this does not mean that our transformation goals can be restricted,” warned Alexander.

The president was also furious with the composition of teams in a national under-21 championship which finished this past weekend.

Free State were the worst offenders with a 74 percent white team followed by the Bulls (70%), Sharks (63%), Western Province (61%) and Lions (40%).

Rugby in South Africa was racially segregated under apartheid with the Springboks fielding exclusively white teams for 90 years before black Errol Tobias was selected for a 1981 Test against Ireland.

Erasmus the transformer

Many white people believed rugby belonged to them even though thousands of black individuals loved, followed and played the sport, particularly in the eastern Cape.

The birth of a multiracial state in 1994 had virtually no effect on the national side with winger Chester Williams the lone black player in the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team.

Little had changed by the time South Africa conquered the world again in 2007, lifting the World Cup with just two blacks, wingers JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana.

Only when national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus doubled up as Springboks coach two years ago did black representation improve and one of his first decisions was to name Siya Kolisi as captain.

Erasmus and Kolisi quickly put behind them two years of humiliating losses, including twice conceding 57 points against greatest rivals New Zealand and falling to Italy for the first time.

The recovery and racial transformation of the team reached a climax last November when South Africa outplayed England 32-12 in the final in Japanese city Yokohama.

Both Springbok tries in the title decider was scored by blacks, Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe.

South Africa have not played since due to the coronavirus pandemic with 13 Tests at home and away wiped out by the pandemic.

The goal of Erasmus and new coach Jacques Nienaber is to consistently field Springbok sides including no less than seven blacks.

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