Racial tensions sour Springbok preparations as trade union enters debate

South Africans must be patient with the pace of transformation in the country’s national rugby side and will not be asking for more black players at the World Cup, sports minister Fikile Mbalula said yesterday.

Racial tensions sour Springbok preparations as trade union enters debate

The debate over racial quotas and transformation in the Springbok team flared up again in the wake of Saturday’s shock 37-25 home defeat to Argentina, with the country’s biggest trade union wading into the argument.

Two black players, Zimbabwe-born prop Tendai Mtwarira and experienced wing Bryan Habana, were included in coach Heyneke Meyer’s starting XV against the Pumas.

Flank Siya Kolisi, wing Lwazi Mvovo and prop Trevor Nyakane came off the bench. Mbulula, a prolific user of Twitter, took to the social media platform to back the current set-up and suggest those frustrated cannot expect change “overnight”.

“Full transformation in rugby is not going to emerge overnight because we are going to the World Cup,” Mbalula said.

“I have (previously) addressed the transformation issues and I have gone a long way in doing so. We need a winning team that is black and white going to the World Cup.”

Issues around the racial make-up of the South African side have risen prior to every World Cup they have competed in — starting with their victory on home soil in 1995 when wing Chester Williams was the only non-white member of the squad.

The influential Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called on South Africa to pick a more “mixed” team for Saturday’s test in Argentina.

“No other team could possibly perform worse and we insist that a more representative team be picked for the next game against Argentina,” Cosatu said in a statement yesterday.

“The performance next week of the mixed team should then lay to rest once and for all the obvious advantages of picking mixed teams.

“The coach played many of the white players out of their positions as he put them into specialist positions, where clearly there were black players available. When he did bring in a few black players, the quality of play changed; but too little too late. This adds insult to injury as the coach ignores the form players of the year as well as the form teams of the year in favour of his personal preferences.

“This coach does not have the national interest at heart and demonstrates a sense of arrogance in disregarding the interest of the majority of South Africans, by treating SA rugby as his private fiefdom.

“This coach has been the worst performing coach of all time over this tournament and yet not a word is spoken about this. When coach De Villiers led the team the white establishment was quick to criticise him, yet there is a deafening silence now.

“There is a white cabal who still tries to control the rugby team and who gets to play in it. They must be told in no uncertain terms that this Springbok team belongs to all South Africans and should reflect all South Africans.”

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