We are 22 years into our democracy and a look at our national rugby and cricket teams reveals that it is not as representative as we would want. So, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s decision this week to ban four sporting codes – cricket, rugby, athletics and netball – from hosting international sporting tournaments until transformation issues are resolved is a step in the right direction.
It is that serious, but one must also remember that we are in an election year, and the DA might have a point when it said it was just a smokescreen to hide government’s failure to develop sport for black South Africans. Transformation starts at grassroots level. Has enough been done to change the sporting landscape at school level? Clearly not enough.
All the major role-players must sit down and come up with concrete plans to develop our sport. Predictably, there was a backlash after the bombshell dropped on Monday, which could dent SA Rugby’s proposed bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Former Proteas cricketer Jacques Kallis vented his frustrations on Twitter: “So sad that I find myself embarrassed to call myself a South African so often these days #no place for politics in sport”, while many sports fans lashed out at Mbalula.
However, it was refreshing to hear SA Rugby’s response. “We understand and support the minister’s urgency in addressing the issue of transformation,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby. “There is no question that we have more work to do and we could be moving faster, but our sport has undergone a major overhaul in how we do business and how we measure ourselves … and we have definitely made great progress.”
All sporting bodies must adopt a similar approach if we are to move forward.