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Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Development of Representation



The issues of race, representation and transformation remain at the forefront of controversy within the realm of South African rugby. Many believe that SARU has failed in its efforts to increase the representation of non-white players and there is a great deal of justification to these claims. The recent Transformation Indaba, once again brought the issue of transformation back into the eyes of the public. At the event, SARU brought forth the "Strategic Transformation Plan" which aims to:
  • Increase the number of black people involved at all levels of the game.
  • Ensure equitable representation of black people at all levels of SARU.
  • Ensure rugby is accessible to all who wish to participate.
  • Improve skills and performance in identified coaches, referees, administrators and players.
  • Ensure goods and services are preferentially procured.
  • Focus on quality and merit to deliver world-class performances on the field of play.
  • Take effective actions to increase the number of new players and spectators.
I admire the fact that SARU is committing to the development of the game in South Africa but I can’t help but feel that we are looking at the problem in the entirely wrong way. Granted, SARU may do a great deal in the short-term future regarding development, but if one is to look at their track record the probability of failure is unavoidable.

To illustrate my concern, I put together the following statistics with regards to representation. I guarantee this will open your eyes.

2011-Mid Year Estimate
South Africa
Male Population
Non-white


Age
African
Coloured
White
Total
20-24
2 052 918
194 879
157 556
2 405 353
25-29
1 858 498
180 483
150 937
2 189 918
30-34
1 639 101
182 233
143 492
1 964 826
Total
5 550 517
557 595
451 985
6 560 097
% of Total
84.61%
8.50%
6.89%


93.11%
6.89%


*Taken from Stats SA's 2011-Population estimate

The above table represents males from the three race groups which traditionally make up our rugby playing population. I specifically broke it up into the age group which plays rugby professionally, i.e. Ages 20-34. For the sake of comparison, I simplified the race groups into 'White' and 'Non-White'. What this now gives us is a cross-section of the population which could, potentially, play professional rugby.


Currie Cup
Full Squads
2012


Team
Non-white
White
Total
Non-white %


Bulls
11
38
49
22.45%


Cheetahs
9
35
44
20.45%


Griquas
5
34
39
12.82%


Lions
9
33
42
21.43%
<-2 foreigners of colour
Sharks
8
34
42
19.05%


Western Province
15
36
51
29.41%


Total
58
210
267
21.72%


  *Currie Cup squad lists taken from SARU's website.

In stark contrast, the overwhelming majority of Currie Cup players are White, 78.28% to be exact. Ask yourself this question, how does a mere 6.89% of the potential rugby playing population account for an astounding 72.28% of the Currie Cup playing population? To add to this, a great deal of the non-white players do not even start on a regular basis.


Currie Cup
Outside Backs
2012


Team
Non-white
White
Total
Non-white %


Bulls
5
2
7
71.43%


Cheetahs
4
3
7
57.14%


Griquas
3
4
7
42.86%


Lions
4
5
9
44.44%
<-2 foreigners of colour
Sharks
5
2
7
71.43%


Western Province
4
6
10
40.00%


Total
25
22
47
53.19%


 
The above table illustrates that 25 of the 58 Non-white players in the Currie Cup wear either the 11,14 or 15 jersey. That basically means that if you're a non-white player in the Currie Cup, there's a 43% chance you'll be an outside back.


Currie Cup
Half Backs
2012
Team
Non-white
White
Total
Non-white %
Bulls
1
8
9
11.11%
Cheetahs
1
6
7
14.29%
Griquas
0
5
5
0.00%
Lions
1
5
6
16.67%
Sharks
0
5
5
0.00%
Western Province
2
5
7
28.57%
Total
5
34
39
12.82%


The above table illustrates another very worrying fact. We are not producing non-white play makers. There are only five non-white play makers in the entire Currie Cup.

Worrying Statistics? I'd say so. Up to this point, SARU has failed in its efforts of transforming South African rugby. For those still sceptical about transformation, try looking at the issue as one of an underutilisation of resources as opposed to a 'Black vs. White' race battle which it has sadly become. The 'Quota System' worsened race relations as there was an unsubstantiated assumption that non-white players were getting picked not on their rugby playing ability but rather on the colour of their skin. To my knowledge, the quota system no longer exists at the highest level and we are better off for it. The forced inclusion of players is unsustainable and impractical. It may improve representation at the highest level but it is just that, representation, and not actual development. It merely gives the goal of transformation an identity but does little in actually dealing with the development of South African rugby.

This, for me, is the biggest problem. We have become too fixated on the concept of representation. Representation is an indicator for how well transformation is coming along and it, in a sense, provides an end goal for transformation, but the issue is quite simply this; when we become too fixated on the end goal we lose sight of what we are actually trying to accomplish and how we are going to accomplish it. To clarify what I am saying, consider a team that is told constantly by their coach to win. He spends every minute of every training session telling his players to win without teaching them the essential skills to do so. They have the end goal in sight but because of their lack of preparation, when it comes to match day it all goes wrong and they end up losing. Representation is 'winning' in this example and development is the 'essential skills' needed to achieve the end result which in this case is 'winning'.

How many players contracted at U19 level go on to represent a Super Rugby franchise? Not many. Let's assume a hypothetical conversion rate at around 25%, i.e. one in four players will make it to the top. Let's now assume that a union contracts 20 players at U19 level; from those 20 players, only 5 will make it to the highest level. By the same logic for one non-white player to make it in to the top there would have to be at least four non-white players contracted at U19 level.

What I'm highlighting here is a simple mechanism with inputs and outputs. The mechanism has a conversion rate of one unit of output for every four units of input. Such a mechanism in South African rugby is unlikely to change overnight. So now how do we increase the number of non-white players at the highest level? We simply need to increase the number of inputs to the mechanism. For this to happen, we need a greater number of non-white players at First XV schoolboy level. If we approach this with existing logic, I would be implying that we should make an effort to increase the number of black players at traditionally 'white schools', i.e. some sort of quota system. Thankfully, however, I propose that we look at the issue with a completely different approach. Let's simply increase the pool of players. Would it not make more sense to have greater commitment by SARU to develop the rugby programmes at traditionally black schools? Although it may take time and considerable resources, the benefits of such a programme will benefit South African rugby far more in the long term. 

The development of the rugby at these schools needs to be done through a sustainable mechanism. It saddens me to say it but these once-off coaching clinics in underdeveloped areas are just that, once off. I honestly don't see the purpose of conducting a clinic where a couple of days later the players forget about what they've been taught because there's no constant involvement with the sport. We need systems. These kids need to be playing the sport on almost a daily basis for there to be any lasting influence. If SARU wants to spend its money wisely, it needs to start developing programmes that become self sufficient over time. Their responsibility should be to start up these programmes in underdeveloped areas and create partnerships within the local community which supports the programme. Partnerships are key because they can be seen as mutually beneficial. Which local business wouldn't want to attach their name to a successful sports programme?

Before I get carried away on details let me just get to the bigger picture. For us to have sustainable, non-white representation, at the highest level, our focus should not be on representation. Although it sounds like a blatant contradiction, it couldn't be more true. If steps aren't taken and the correct measures aren’t put in place, how can we ever expect to have sustainability and actual development? If this doesn't happen and we continue in the same vein, South African rugby will sadly be torn apart by this obsession of race at the highest level. Ideally, in the future, the colour of the player's skin won't make a difference and the selection of a player won't be questioned along racial lines. Again, this is an ideal state, one which needs to be fought for, one which needs the commitment of all the relevant parties. Only then can this ideal state become a reality.


1 comment :

  1. Representation doesn't matter at all. What matters is the game and how they play the game. You can have a chance to watch live with Rugby Supporters Tours. Go ahead and book one.

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