Oregan Hoskins, president of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) says that the idea that rugby is an “exclusive”, “white-dominated” game is laughable.
In an Open Letter to South Africa on the eve of the Rugby World Cup in England, Hoskins said that the 31 players selected to represent the country ‘are the pride of our nation’ – and those are the words of the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula.
Last week, a legal bid to prevent the Springbok rugby team from flying out to play in England, was abandoned in the High Court in Pretoria.
Applicant, Tshidiso Mokhoanatse and his Agency for New Agenda political party, had argued that Mbalula and Saru had failed to ensure that the Springbok team reflected South Africa’s racial demographics.
“Not one of those players selected himself and yet there are those who wish them ill, and even to fail, as some form of protest against rugby and what they perceive to be our transformation record,” Hoskins said.
He said that many opinions have been aired over recent weeks and that he has listened to them with growing frustration.
“Let us get one thing absolutely clear: Our sport is massively transformed from where it was in 1992,” the rugby boss stressed.
“The idea of an ‘exclusive’, ‘white-dominated’ game is frankly laughable. What we are is a successful, high performance sport in a competitive global environment; we are a responsible South African corporate citizen and we are a business. We fully realise that to stay relevant and vibrant in our country we need to evolve,” Hoskins said.
“So, no one needs to lecture us about the importance of transformation – we got there long ago.”
He said that the sport’s Strategic Transformation Plan has six dimensions (demographics, access, social responsibility, performance, corporate governance and capacity building); it has 71 measurable key performance indicators; it has targets for every aspect for every year to 2019 – “we have nailed our colours to the mast”.
He said that in the week that the code was first lambasted for being an elite, white sport Saru opened its 32nd mobile gym for black schools and clubs in Pacaltsdorp; it inaugurated a fifth ‘Boks for Books’ library in an under-privileged school in Stellenbosch and it was named sports federation of the year in awards for women’s sport.
“All anyone was interested in was the fact that there were eight black players in a squad of 31 when 84% of the under-18 population is black African. It makes no sense does it,” Hoskins questioned.
“We now have a thoroughly worked out five-year plan on which we can be judged and with which we are aligned with our government. The transformation train has left the station and it is the critics that have been left on the platform. Rugby is definitely on track,” Hoskins said.
The Boks kick off their Rugby World Cup 2015 challenge on September 19 against Japan in Brighton.
The six-week tournament takes place from September 18 to October 31 and will be hosted in 10 English cities and in Cardiff, Wales.
A full copy of Hoskins’ letter can be found here.