The idea for this post came to me when I was digging out an old U2 DVD, Rattle & Hum, from my collection. Somewhere in the middle of the DVD they cut away from the music to do a quick interview with U2’s bass guitarist Adam Clayton. Clayton then proceeds to say the following “There are some people who say you should not mix music and politics or sport and politics…well I think that’s kind of bullshit.” While we at the Sport Freak neither agree or disagree with the statement, it certainly does make for an interesting debate when looking at it from an IRB rule book perspective.
The IRB rule book on racial discrimination reads as follows:
In terms of By-Law 3 of the IRB rules and regulations, the IRB is compelled to prevent any form of racial discrimination in rugby. IRB Regulation 20 also stipulates that any action which may be construed as racial discrimination will be regarded as misconduct. In terms of By-Law 7, not only is a country’s international team bound to this; the provincial rugby unions resorting under a country’s board must adhere to these principles as well. In terms of By-Law 9.4(r) the IRB may institute disciplinary steps against any rugby body that violates these rules.
SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY UNION SELECTION POLICY
What makes the above even more interesting is if you look at it from a SARU (South African Rugby Union) perspective. According to the South African Rugby Union’s new set of rules agreed upon in a board meeting where all local rugby unions were involved in, including the minister of sport and recreation, a strategic transformation plan was set in place. The transformation plan says that by 2019 all local and national teams should consist of a minimum of 50% black player.
While I have no legal background, when comparing South African Rugby Union’s transformation planagainst that of the IRB rule book it is as clear as daylight to me, that the transformation plan is a clear violation of By-Law 3 – “The IRB is compelled to prevent any form of racial discrimination in rugby.” Furthermore it is also a clear violation of Regulation 20 which stipulates – “any action which may be construed as racial discrimination will be regarded as misconduct.”
The question should be asked – is the transformation plan, which has been approved, not a clear violation of these rules? In essence the transformation plan which compels a 50% selection of black players, is a clear discrimination against white players, since it will without a doubt take opportunities away from white players!
While the South African, racial situation is a very touchy subject, due to apartheid which we all know about. Yet it has been 26 years since the fall of Apartheid. Many of the players, currently playing in South African rugby were not even born during the Apartheid era. While I do not want this post to turn into a political debate, I do want to raise the question about double standards.
When Apartheid was in place the IRB implemented sanctions against the South African Rugby Union due to its policy of NOT considering black players for selection. Surely the new policy which has been implemented by the South African Rugby Union is very much the same as the policy which got SARU sanctioned during apartheid. Many South African rugby supporters, both black and white, calls the new policy reverse racism, which it arguably is! If the South African Rugby Union got sanctioned for its selection policy of non black players, surely they should now get sanctioned for their new policy which essentially excludes 50% of white players for selection?
AfriForum a South African lobby group has filed a complaint with the IRB against the South African Rugby Union’s selection policy, however it has availed to nothing. The fact that the legal complaint submitted to the IRB has availed to nothing is a strong indication of double standards from the IRB in my opinion.
Simply put the IRB is not enforcing their own rules. What will happen if England Rugby Union starts enforcing the same policy? Surely there will be a huge public outcry and action will be taken against the Union by the IRB? Thus why is no action taken against the South African Rugby Union for enforcing their racial selection policy?
What will happen if nothing is done against South African Rugby Union’s Selection Policy?
If nothing gets done against SARU and their racial selection policy two things will happen. Firstly it will result in a loss to world rugby, since South African Rugby, a traditional power house of world rugby, will lose its competitiveness, due to not selecting players on merit but rather making selections to fulfill quota requirements. While no one can disagree there are very talented black rugby players in the South African rugby circles, having a 50% black selection policy is just not practical, and will surely result in South African rugby moving backwards. The selection policy will filter through to the national side and those classical South Africa vs New-Zealand encounters that we all so loved, will no longer exist.
Secondly European Rugby will be a huge beneficiary of the South African Rugby Union’s racial selection system. There will be an influx of young white talented South African rugby players to the European nations.These talented players who could have gone on to become big names for the Springboks will now wear a different colored jersey. The move to Europe due to racial selection policies has already started as long ago as 1996.
Perhaps the most famous example coming from a non rugby player but rather a South African born cricket player, who eventually went on to captain England. The outspoken Kevin Pietersen has claimed that racial quotas forced him into making the biggest decision of his life, to quit his native South Africa and move to England. While very few players are as outspoken as Kevin Petersen the truth is many players have and will make the same decision.
I will state again the aim of this post was not to start a political debate but rather to question the South African Rugby Union’s newly adopted selection policy. It is of my view that the selection policy should be scrapped for the interest of both South African rugby aswel as world rugby. I will leave you with this final question. If the South African Rugby Union got sanctioned for its selection policy of non black players, surely they should now get sanctioned for their new policy which essentially excludes 50% of white players for selection?
Let us know your opinion on the South African Rugby Union Selection policy by dropping us a comment below. You can also make your voice heard by signing our petition against racial discrimination in South African sport. With each signature an email will get send to Brett Gosper, the CEO of World Rugby, and Fikile Mbalula, current South African sports minister.
*The views expressed in this article are purely that of the author.*