Saru still set on 50% black target

UNLOCK TALENT:  Saru chief executive Jurie Roux  at the transformation strategy briefing  in Cape Town yesterdayPicture: -
UNLOCK TALENT: Saru chief executive Jurie Roux at the transformation strategy briefing in Cape Town yesterdayPicture: –

‘Transformation in rugby critical business imperative’

THE South African Rugby Union (Saru) has vowed to continue its pursuit of a 50% black player target in the Springbok team by 2019.

Saru chief executive Jurie Roux yesterday reiterated the target, announced initially in September last year, at the unveiling of the union’s Strategic Transformation Plan (STP), which has been two years in the making.

Roux, though, was quick to point out that it was not a tool designed to impose quotas, but to rather set targets that Saru and the provincial unions would be measured against.

“Responsibility is the main aim of the STP. Like every company in South Africa, we have to do our duty.

“We’ve already set targets in the Vodacom Cup and Community Cup and we have a target of 50% black player representation for Currie Cup, Super Rugby and the Springboks by 2019,” Roux said.

When the move was first mooted, EP Kings boss Cheeky Watson came out firmly in support of the measures.

“In terms of feasibility, the Eastern Cape has always been seen as the cradle of black rugby in South Africa and it is a well-known fact that the majority of professional black players nationally stem from the region,” Watson said.

“The Eastern Province Rugby Union has always been committed to transformation and has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the structures that will assist young, talented black players to come through the ranks and join the professional structures.”

The STP is the third incarnation of the transformation document from Saru since the turn of the century.

In 2001, Saru released Vision 2003. It was published to provide a roadmap to take the organisation into the 21st century and was based on four imperatives – transformation, growth, winning and financial sustainability.

While certain aspects of Vision 2003 were followed through, the document was quietly scrapped.

In 2006, the Transformation Charter, penned by Dr Willie Basson, replaced Vision 2003.

In a presentation of the draft Transformation Charter to parliament in 2005, Saru’s document declared: “This was the last chance for rugby to reform.”

The charter also died a quiet death and nearly 10 years later there is another plan.

Admittedly, it is one that appears to be centred in reality with assessments, measurements and targets, rather than flowery prose.

The STP has six focus areas – demographic representation, access to the game, skills and capacity development, performance, community development and social responsibility, and corporate governance.

Development and performance are already being tracked through Saru’s department headed by Rassie Erasmus.

The “Footprint” system, which was also developed by Saru, is an online measurement device dedicated to allow Erasmus and his team to track the physical progress of players from an elite under-16 level.

Roux said: “Transformation is a critical business imperative in South Africa and if we had not taken this new approach to what had been an organic process up until recently, we would have put our sport in peril of becoming marginalised.

“It will unlock untapped talent and has the potential to awaken corporate interest in rugby where it may previously not have existed.

“The simple facts are that the majority of rugby supporters and players at schoolboy and club level are black; 84% of this country’s U18s are black African, and we want them in our game in some way.”

Roux said rugby was entirely unrecognisable from the game that returned from isolation in 1992, countering the perception that nothing had changed.

“Saru has had a black president for 17 years, our executive council is 75% black, we’ve had a black Springbok coach, the leading Springbok try scorer of all time is black, and the Western Province team that won the Currie Cup [last year] averaged 40% black representation and had a black coach and captain.”

-Craig Ray

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