Kings fail to encourage black rugby

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THERE is much justifiable sadness at the relegation of the Kings from the Super Rugby competition. There is also much indignation at the lemming-like migration of a bunch of mainly white “has-been” players to wallow on the reserve benches as practice fodder for the richer franchise teams.

The stated rationale behind the Kings was to promote black players’ participation at the highest levels of rugby. About three black players regularly appeared for the Kings.

The effort in its primary aim was a failure.

Spare a thought then for the nursery of black rugby in South Africa: the Eastern Cape and the Border. The schools I am familiar with – Dale, Queens and Graeme College – all field first 15s packed with talented black players.

Nothing, or very little, is done to nurture these schools by their provincial unions.

These schools stand and fall by their own meager resources (in contrast to schools in the Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng and KZN) as they cannot afford to buy players with bursaries or tempt coaches with salaries.

Consider the University of Fort Hare when you look at, for example, the universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria which have provided the intelligentsia of SA rugby for a more than 100 years. Surely the Fort Hare Blues should receive massive financial support?

If the ANC government, Saru, the Border and EP unions were genuine and honest about developing black rugby talent, surely they should commit time, resources and money to these cradles of local talent? Money should not be flung at expensive, largely white “has-beens” and young “no-hopers” who flee at the first sign of adversity.

With the quota system about to be implemented, surely these “nursery” schools and those like them should be nurtured and the provincial teams would be naturally filled with high quality black players?

But one detects a sinister agenda. If the senior fields of SA rugby are to be swamped (as they should be) with black talent, this will deprive the populist politicians of a stick with which to beat the transformation drum.

The continuing dearth of black representatives will be (falsely) blamed on white selfishness, economic imperialism, apartheid and all the other shibboleths, and the real guilt will be deflected.

So one concludes that the huge potential of black rugby talent will continue to be sacrificed on the altar of political expedience.

Quentin Hogge, King William’s Town

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