SA Rugby report slams Springboks for failing to reach ‘transformation’ targets

Colin Newboult
Springboks players after their Rugby World Cup win in 2023.

Springboks players after their Rugby World Cup win in 2023.

A South Africa Rugby Union report has revealed that the Springboks did not reach their goals in 2023 over the number of black players included in the team.

Despite the positive work that has been done over the past few years, which included appointing their first-ever black skipper in Siya Kolisi, the Boks are still falling behind the targets set by the governing body.

Last year, which saw South Africa win a record-breaking fourth Rugby World Cup title, the Boks were tasked with including 54 per cent “generic black players”, according to Rapport.

Of that number, 27 per cent had to be “ethnically black players”, but in the Rugby Championship it was at 39 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

World Cup number

Meanwhile, at the World Cup, they had 38 per cent “generic black players” and 16 per cent “ethnic black players.”

“Despite efforts and a commitment (to transformation), the Springboks did not achieve the transformation targets in any of the three series in which they played (in 2023),” the report said.

“It is essential that 2023’s transformation achievements are improved in the future, without compromising performance standards.”

The audit forms part of SA Rugby’s Strategic Transformation Development Plan for 2030, which is aligned with the government’s National Development Plan for 2030.

Its aim is to increase black and brown representation in their sports teams by the start of the next decade, with 60 per cent the key number the Boks have to get to.

That might prove difficult at the moment as the SA Schools teams failed to reach their goals, leaving the governing body concerned.

“Intervention is needed,” the report said. “The red flags underline the importance of tackling the gap in representation at a lower level to ensure an inclusive pipeline for national teams.

“While some national teams have shown commendable progress in achieving transformation targets, others have faced challenges in achieving diversity in their teams.

“It is essential to proactively tackle the gaps and ensure all teams reflect the rich diversity of South Africa without compromising performance standards.

“The SA Schools teams are supposed to reflect the demographics of all rugby-playing schools in South Africa. As South Africa’s population consists of 82% ethnically black people, it is important that team selections include a higher number of this demographic group.

“The lack of transformation progress is likely to affect not only the Junior Springboks, but also other national teams. It is essential to ensure that all selectors and coaches are fully aware of the required targets for 2023 to tackle these inequalities effectively.”

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It was slightly better news for the franchises, and particularly the Sharks and Stormers, who were at 55 and 54 per cent respectively in the Champions Cup, but the Bulls were down at 31 per cent.

In the United Rugby Championship, that figure was at 49 per cent for the Stormers and 44 per cent for the Sharks, while the Lions (33 per cent) and Bulls (28 per cent) were much lower.

“The audit report highlights a worrying trend, with certain provincial unions showing a clear disregard for their self-imposed targets, particularly when it comes to team composition,” the report added.

“In the spirit of joint accountability, it is recommended that a proactive approach be taken, which includes that there must be consequences (for those unions that do not meet the targets).”

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