In a recently-published book, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has questioned whether the Springboks are getting things ‘right’ with their transformation policies.
During an interview Hansen conducted with British rugby writer Peter Bills, the All Blacks boss suggested that some of the Springboks’ struggles could be down to their selection policies.
“They (the Springboks) are the only team in sport I know that doesn’t pick its best team,” he is quoted as saying in the book, The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team. “I understand what they are trying to do but … Nelson Mandela understood it better than anyone else.
“He knew that the Springboks was a team that could unite the nation. I still believe it is. If they got things right and allowed it to develop naturally, it would. And you would get the right people in the team. In the end, it would be a multi-cultural team.”
The chapter in which these quotes appears is focused around the decline of the All Blacks’ southern hemisphere rivals, and what influence this might have on the strength of New Zealand rugby.
In 2018, the Boks have needed to pick a team that is 45% demographically representative, while there will need to be a 50-50 split between black and white players in 2019.
Hansen said he felt that South African rugby had perhaps lost sight of the true unifying power of the sport.
“Rugby wasn’t a black man’s sport, but it was the sport that would unify the country in a way that no other sport or business could. Now I think that unity isn’t there so much. As a nation, it has got such a lively history and it has created a whole lot of things we will never understand because we were never part of it.
“There is a lot of ill-feeling. But the thing they don’t want to fall into is actually reversing that. That is a pretty political statement but when you look at the rugby, one of my great mates, Heyneke Meyer, found out that having to select a team based on what colour a man’s skin is, goes against all the principles and spirit of sport.
“What it does is create a situation where 1) you are not picking the best team and 2) the guys that get picked are thinking, ‘Am I here because of the reasons of quota or because I am good enough?’’