The East Terrace
Springboks to adopt new quota system
June 19, 2009
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers will have an unprecedented selection headache under the new quota system © Getty Images
South Africa's preparations for the upcoming Test series against the British & Irish Lions have been dramatically thrown into chaos as the South African Rugby Football Union has unveiled drastic new selection policies.
SARFU have initiated a new formal quota system that will radically alter the way its national sides are selected. It has been confirmed that for the 2010 season all South African sides will have to adhere to strict new guidelines on the make up of its sides.
Whilst the policy will not be officially brought in until 2010, SARFU have confirmed that head coach Peter De Villiers will be expected to implement the system on a 'trial' basis for the upcoming test series with the British and Irish Lions.
At a snazzy high-tech press conference held yesterday iat Newlands, South Africa, chief spokesperson for SARFU, Johan Moaga, listed the new regulations for the assembled world media.
Moaga explained that all national squads are to be 'fully representative' of the make up and mixture of not only South African society, but also 'the global community of man'.
From 2010 each national squad must now include at least one each of the following:
+ White player
The issue of quotas has been a thorny issue in South African sport since the end of apartheid in 1994. Previously the South Africa Rugby Union has not operated a formal quota system with regard to the national team, but there had been an unwritten rule that the Springboks would not field an all-white team. South African cricket, meanwhile, has also experiemented with a formal quota system based on race.
SARFU have called the unprecedented move a 'major step forward for tolerance, diversity and humanity in not only South African society but also world history'.
Moaga explained that the South African side needed to be a symbol for all of the people of South Africa. "Whether black, white, blind or left handed, all people have an equal right to be considered for the famous green and gold of our nation," he said. "The days of the white man dominating the team are long gone. We are now the team of the people.
"As a symbol of how much we have moved on each of our sides will now even include a non-South African. By this gesture, we can show that race or nationality is no barrier to playing for South Africa."
The unexpected move was immediately condemned by a wide range of players and administrators from the rugby community in South Africa who feel that the national side should be selected purely on merit.
One ex-player, who wished to remain anonymous, stated, "This is a grim day for rugby in my country. With a side full of babies, pensioners and soccer players we will be the laughing stock of Southern Hemisphere. I think that we can only expect to beat the likes of Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland by three or four points now each year. It is a tragedy. I think the Lions may even sneak a win."
Others, however, welcomed the move. One leading rugby critic hoped that the widening of the selection criteria might actually lead to South Africa finding a decent selection of outside halves. "Put it this way," said Andrew Roberts of South African Rugby Weekly News, "We can't do much worse in the number ten position, can we?"
The Lions' management, meanwhile, have admitted that the unorthodox selection policy means the Springboks will be an unknown quantity.
"This really puts the cat amongst the pigeons," said coach Warren Gatland. "South Africans are proud and passionate people. I'm sure whoever they pick will provide us with the sternest test imaginable. I'm sure many will think we start the series as favourites now, but I've seen enough in sport to know that can never be the case. You only need to watch something like the Mighty Ducks to know anything can happen."
SARFU have also revealed the playing kit will be changed to reflect the 'Rainbow Nation' by taking on all of the colours of the rainbow. From 2010 it will not only have a Springbok emblem on the chest, but also the image of several dozen other native animals so as not to discriminate against any of God's creatures.
The move by SARFU is considered the most significant in world rugby since the New Zealand Rugby Football Union decided that at least 50% of its team must be made up of players actually born in New Zealand.
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world