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Ken Borland

Cricket steps towards proper integration, but what of rugby?

Posted on October 02, 2014 by Ken

Cricket took another major step towards properly integrating the game this weekend when the domestic season began with the new quota/target/requirement of at least two Black Africans per franchise … and the world did not end.

In fact, Temba Bavuma showed that he is one of the most promising batsmen in the country with a delightful innings at the Wanderers, handling the pace of Marchant de Lange with aplomb, Kagiso Rabada showed that he has a tremendous cricketing brain inside that athletic 19-year-old body, while Ethy Mbhalati and Tumi Masakela both bowled tidily, the latter for the Knights against the Warriors in Bloemfontein.

There was a predictable outcry when Cricket South Africa first announced this new “target” in mid-year, but 20 years of democracy has proven that some sectors of society are still recalcitrant when it comes to righting the wrongs of the past and trying to level the playing fields when it comes to opportunity, which is surely one of the basic premises of all sport.

Some people require a push in the right direction. But if the moral imperatives of fair play and equal opportunity aren’t incentive enough, then economic and sporting reality should be. Sports like cricket and rugby are still only tapping into a tiny proportion of the population, and therefore the talent in this country; by opening the doors of opportunity to more people, it stands to reason that our teams will become stronger.

While I am pleased that Black African cricketers will now have more opportunity at first-class level, therefore deepening the talent pool available to the Proteas, I was even more delighted with the news that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has handed Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje a start in today’s Test against the Wallabies.

At least now maybe the storms of accusation that have been circulating on electronic and social media will end.

It is perfectly understandable that some people, after all the years of suffering under Apartheid, still have a chip on their shoulders, but as a nation we should be trying to discuss these issues with less emotion.

There are so many armchair, semi-knowledgeable coaches out there and yet they feel they know better than a highly-qualified and decorated coach like Meyer when it comes to rugby reasons for selection? Worst of all, Meyer was accused of racism.

This is patently ridiculous when you consider that it was Meyer who recognised the raw material in Mohoje and brought him into the Springbok squad after he had started just five SuperRugby matches, all of them at home.

That’s the sort of affirmative action I fully support, but the peanut gallery who then wanted Mohoje to be hurried into the Rugby Championship starting XV are likely to harm his future prospects rather than help them.

Sure, Juan Smith leapfrogged Mohoje and had a bad game against Argentina but who can blame a coach, with his job on the line, for backing the pedigree of an experienced player who had performed brilliantly in the Heineken Cup? And places on the bench generally don’t necessarily go to the next best player, but to the player who can bring the most value to the side in terms of impact and utility value.

And those people saying Mohoje has been treated differently to someone like Arno Botha should note that the Bulls loose forward played 22 SuperRugby matches before making his debut against Italy and Scotland, the same team the Cheetahs flank began his international career against.

Perhaps the days are not far off when South African rugby franchises, like their cricketing counterparts, will have to play a couple of Black Africans. Only then will Meyer not have to manipulate the system and try and fast-track players. Selection is a gamble at the best of times and political sensitivities make it an absolute minefield.



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