Many of the country’s top rugby-playing schools came to the big city last weekend as Easter rugby festivals were held at St Stithians, St John’s and King Edward VII.
I always find it interesting to look at the composition of these teams because, if we accept that transformation has to occur in order for the Springboks to pick from all the talent in the country and if we also accept that developmental change has to happen at grassroots level and not at the top, then it follows that the responsibility for ensuring there are more black players in the pipeline must sit with the schools.
While there were some very exciting black players who lit up the festivals – I was hugely impressed by the Grey High backline at St Stithians and Jeppe eighthman Hacjivah Dayimane apparently stole the show at the KES festival – it seems choosing players of colour remains uncomfortable, at best, for certain schools.
It certainly did not sit well with me that my alma mater, Michaelhouse, had only one player of colour in their team. But Michaelhouse, although a decent side, are far from being one of the best schoolboy teams in the country.
Transformation only works if black players are developed through the pipeline and if they get the opportunity to play at the best schools, alongside the best players.
Paarl Boys High, Paul Roos Gymnasium and Affies are generally regarded as the top three rugby schools in the country but players of colour are few and far between in those sides. When those two great Boland teams, Paarl BHS and Paul Roos, played each other last, the local Stellenbosch newspaper featured a double-page spread with all the players mugshots on display. So that’s 44 faces and, barring a handful of kids, they were noticeably lily-white.
Perhaps quotas should be in the works at schoolboy level? How else are unions meant to get enough players of colour into their systems?
For the top rugby schools, who have a history of enticing the best talent, to just about ignore black players is unpatriotic to say the least. Just in the Boland example, there is plenty of fantastic talent right there.
This is yet another issue for Saru to wrestle with, but don’t hold your breath because at the moment they can’t even seem to get a coach for the Springboks sorted out.
You can still bank on the new man being Allister Coetzee, but the constant delays in his appointment are not doing him or the Springboks’ chances of success this year any good at all.
Cricket South Africa also faces interesting times as it ponders whether to keep their faith in their national coach, Russell Domingo.
Chief executive Haroon Lorgat said there will be a thorough review of the team’s performance under Domingo, but speaking to other coaches and players, the Eastern Cape man certainly has backing.
Again, timing is of the essence, though, and four Tests in Australia in November would not be a kind first assignment if they are going to make a change. Far rather use the triangular limited-overs series in the West Indies in June and the home Tests against New Zealand in August to bed someone new in.