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South African quotas rule may benefit Ireland bid

Frank Quinn
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By Frank Quinn (pictured)

FIKILE Mbulala is the South African Sports Minister who is flexing his muscles and he is urging the South African Sporting Federations to fulfilL racial quotas. He specifically named cricket, rugby, netball and athletics.
His plan is to ban all bidding for international tournaments until their number of black players has improved.
On the face of it, he would ban SARFU (SA Rugby Football Union) from bidding for the 2023 RWC unless the quotas system is fully implemented (The Government is needed to underwrite/ guarantee the finances for the bid).
In this year of 2016, it is difficult to contemplate writing about blacks and whites. It sounds like a throwback to the dark ages, which we try to ignore in the hope that the issue will go away. But sure enough it is alive and well and this time, again, it cannot be ignored.
More than 90% of the SA population is coloured and they remain in the minority of starting line-ups after two decades of white minority rule which prevented them from competing at the highest level.
The previous international coach, Heyneke Meyer, resigned in December 2015 amid the turmoil of black players being sidelined. He was replaced by a government appointed rugby coach, Allister Coetzee, to oversee the quotas
But in a country like South Africa sport has not always been about merit.
In the planning for quotas, the “encouraged” rugby quota was 50% of the squad to be black by 2019 for the next RWC in Japan.
We assume also that this quota system will apply to the six rugby franchises in existence in South Africa for Super Rugby. Where do the white players go if they are replaced by black players? Well, I guess overseas is the answer. Sterling and indeed Euros are quite an attractive proposition against the South African rand currency.
So far there has been little or no consequences in cricket or rugby, who are the big defaulters, but the current minister is trying to implement the quotas.
Sporting federations have long been warned about a government backlash if they fail to find and nurture black talent and it looks like they mean business this time.
The obvious key is to identify a number of black talent sports people and bring them up to international class. This is very difficult to do in any country. It is the goal all over the world to spot talent and bring it forward.
In a country where there was, allegedly, a deliberate effort to suppress such talent, there is now a necessary overdue effort to step forward and redress it – according to the reports. For more than 50 years black athletes were wafer thin in number on the national sides.
It is a serious dilemma for the current national coach; he has to pick his side based on black/white quotas, not on talent or position. Picking teams is always difficult but with one hand tied behind your back, it is a nightmare. He has to wait for new black talent to be identified and matured into international quality players so that he has the option to include them. In the meantime he faces the three best teams in the world in the 2016 Rugby Championship.
From the sound of it, the quota warnings were ignored by the sporting federations and now they have to pay. They must hope that the government will be a little understanding and flexible for the next few years to really implement the quotas by stealth and not harm the country’s contribution to international sport.
South Africa has signified its intention to be involved in the bids to host the 2023 RWC and is viewed as serious contenders from the Southern Hemisphere.
Following England 2015, New Zealand 2011, France 2007, Australia 2003 and the RWC is scheduled for Japan in 2019.

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