It is no secret that South African Super Rugby teams are proving to be no match for their Australian and New Zealand counterparts during the 2014 Super Rugby season. Occupying three of the bottom five spots on the table and with only the Sharks looking like a glimmer of hope on the horizon as the only likely playoff qualifier from the South African conference, is it an ideal time for Fikile Mbalula, the current Minister of Sport in South Africa, to be demanding quotas be implemented in the sport?
Currently, the only level of the sport with an active quota system is the Vodacom Cup, a domestic competition, whereby each team is required to have a minimum of seven players of colour in the 22-man squad, five of which must be in the starting fifteen and minimum two of those must be part of the forward pack.
In a Super Rugby season, plagued with rigid, thoughtless game-plans and a complete lack of try-scoring ability by the South African franchises, it does not seem like a prudent time to be pushing politics into sport.
However, current Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula has threatened to withhold permission for national sporting teams to compete at an international level, unless radical transformation is achieved. He claims that the rate of transformation is unacceptable amongst South African sporting federations and that the only option is to enforce a 60-40 black to white quota in the sport.
SARU president Oregan Hoskins has stated that rugby, “doesn’t have a choice but to comply”, and has thus expressed his intention to commit all of South Africa’s fourteen provincial sides to the quota.
SARU has met with Mbalula and discussed plans on how to effectively bring about transformation in the sport and it has been decided that the quota would be delayed until next year (2015). SARU has also made public its intentions to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which will not be possible without government commitment and investment, both of which will not occur unless Mbalula is satisfied with transformation in the sport.
The system has also seen strong opposition from the trade union Solidarity, which has compiled a 52 000 strong petition opposing the motion and states that they (Solidarity) would, “put it to the minister that the quotas, be it in work or on sports fields, are unacceptable and will be challenged”.