Columnists 24.11.2016 11:42 am

It’s not quotas, the Boks are just plain bad

There is actually one thing that annoys me more than the Springboks at the moment … people blaming political interference and the so-called “quotas’’ for the sinkhole our national team finds itself in.

Seriously? Quotas in essence would refer to players whose inclusion is not based on merit, but rather on the grounds of an adopted policy of adhering to a certain number of players of colour. In Saturday’s starting line-up against Italy, the Boks had four players of colour in their starting line-up: Beast Mtawarira, Nizaam Carr, Rudy Paige and Bryan Habana.

For the record, Damian de Allende has been confirmed as white after a debate around his race erupted ahead of the World Cup last year. Mtawarira and Habana have represented the Boks in over 200 Test matches. Yes, having stalwarts like them around does make meeting a set target of players of colour easier, but don’t insult them by calling them quotas.

They will go down in the annals alongside John Smit, Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers as the most-capped Springboks in history and need to be respected for that every bit as much as the white names on that list.

Carr has been one of the standout loose forwards in the country for a number of seasons now and deserves to get a chance, especially in the wake of the flank crisis the Boks find themselves in. If Roelof Smit hadn’t got injured at the start of the tour and wore the No 6 jersey against Italy, there would have been one position less quotas could have been blamed for. As for Paige, we aren’t exactly spoiled for choice at scrumhalf at the moment.

The Springboks were forced to go with rookie Faf de Klerk for most of the season because he was the best around, but he has lost form and most of his confidence too it seems. I suppose the argument to justify Paige’s inclusion as a pure quota would be that his service is too slow.

I remember another scrumhalf called Francois Hougaard whose service was similarly slow, but because he was as pale as a sheet he didn’t qualify for the good ol’ quota excuse. Our national team is so poor at the moment, I think All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith would look ordinary behind their feeble pack if we could pluck him from an airport cubicle and clad him in a Bok jersey.

I think Kieran Read would struggle up front and it is obvious Julian Savea wouldn’t even get the ball if we had the option of picking him at wing. I know Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula made a lot of noise about the need to step up transformation in rugby earlier this year, but I’m sorry, his political meddling is not the reason why the Boks are so poor.

Even though he does stuff up a lot, the current mess isn’t something even he can take credit for. We can’t shy away from the fact that the Boks are lying critically ill in ICU and that fingers are being pointed all over as to who is responsible for causing the crash.

So go ahead and blame the players for earning too much and lacking passion. Blame the coach for his clear lack of a game plan, his often contentious selections and making too many annoying excuses. Blame the rugby bosses for allowing such a nasty decline before taking drastic action.

Blame yourself for investing so much emotion into a team that hurts you so much. But quotas? Don’t clutch at straws.

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