If the Springboks are going to meet their target of 50% non-white representation at next year’s World Cup, new national coach Rassie Erasmus is supposed to pick 11 black or coloured players this year in his match squads.
But the stats at Super Rugby level aren’t helping him much in that regard.
After eight rounds of this year’s tournament, South Africa’s four franchises haven’t picked more than 9 non-white players in a match to date.
On average, the number hovers at seven non-white players per match 23.
However, is this only a numbers game?
Here are the four franchises transformation “scorecards”.
Number of non-white players selected: 10
Non-white players who’ve started 5 or more matches: Beast Mtawarira, Sbu Nkosi, Tera Mtembu, Curwin Bosch, Lwazi Mvovo
Most non-white players selected in a match: 8 (vs Sunwolves, Rebels, Blues and Hurricanes)
The Durbanites arguably are the most transformed local side in Super Rugby this year.
Not only have they used the most non-white players of all the franchises, there’s been a willingness to consistently pick them.
Five players have started in five or more matches and in their last three matches the Sharks have had seven non-white starters.
That points to non-white players also being regarded as key players.
Number of non-white players selected: 9
Non-white players who’ve started 5 or more matches: Marvin Orie, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Sylvian Mahuza, Aphiwe Dyantyi
Most non-white players selected in a match: 7 (vs Sharks, Crusaders and Stormers)
The Lions have been accused in the past of lagging behind in their transformation efforts but this year has seen a marginal improvement.
Team management have insisted in previous years that they focus on quality of opportunities rather than quantity, which they actually can prove.
The men from Ellis Park might pick a fairly limited group of non-white players but at least they are key players – think Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe.
Another feather in their cap is that they’ve at least unearthed new gems in wingers Madosh Tambwe and Aphiwe Dyantyi as well as No 8 Hacjivah Dayimani.
Other franchises merely recycle their established non-white players without producing new ones.
Number of non-white players selected: 8
Non-white players who’ve started 5 or more matches: Thembelani Bholi, Travis Ismaiel, Warrick Gelant
Most non-white players selected in a match: 7 (vs Chiefs, Crusaders and Stormers)
There was concern at the start of the season that New Zealand coach John Mitchell wasn’t quite appreciating the political realities of his position after picking only five players of colour in the Bulls’ firs two matches.
But the trend has been upward since as the team from Loftus now consistently pick seven players of colour in match squads.
An initial outsider like Thembelani Bholi has become the regular blindside flanker and there’s been increasing trust in Bok prop Trevor Nyakane.
Things will surely pick up too when Tim Agaba’s sevens duty is over.
Number of non-white players selected: 11
Non-white players who’ve started 5 or more matches: Ramone Samuels, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Damian Willemse, Raymond Rhule, Dillyn Leyds.
Most non-white players selected in a match: 9 (vs Bulls and Lions)
The Stormers have never had a problem picking representative teams.
And statistically they lead the way once again, consistently picking six to seven non-white starting players.
However, they can only claim to have developed two new talents in Ramone Samuels and Damian Willemse (who are, interestingly, siblings).
Most of the others – Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds – are established and important players.
It will also be interesting to see how long Sikhumbuzo Notshe can be tolerated as just a specialist bench player.
(Note: Damian de Allende’s father has claimed previously that they are not considered coloured)