SARU racial selection policyThe 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.


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.*



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  1. Rules are rules and should be applied as indicated in the rule book. One cannot justify the reasons given above ,discrimination is discrimination and no excuses should be given to justify the injust continued application of quotas 20 odd years later.what is evident here is the failure of the current regime to invest and develop rugby from grass root level.Change cannot happen from the top (Springbok team) it must be from junior teams and the talent will come through,however no guarantee on 50% will be non white players.Merit first, choose the best team always !

  2. I agree 100%

    Then there is the small isssue of the minister of sport tweeting about too many dumb boers still attending rugby matches and that boers should be charged double the fee.

    1. Just shows how stupid we “boers” are, we keep on supporting this chaos and provide them with fat cat salaries.
      If we vote with our feet and stop supporting all sport, they will very quickly change their tune or die of hunger!!

      1. hell Neil you are right We even pay them (in taxes) to f*** us up that is just plain stupid..

        I think Einstein said something in the lines of —- Insanity: Is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

        We’ve got to break the cycle

  3. just because this idiotic minister was not picked on merit…… But picked because of the Colour of his skin …. He should not push that onto our national team. I am sure there is not one black player who would like to be selected for a team other than on merit.

  4. This is so wrong. Players on merit is right. Leave the past behind where it belongs. No one ever moved forward carting bad luggage.
    This country needs to prosper not fester.
    I love the Springbok Rugby Team because they make us proud, please don’t mess it up with quota nonsense. This is not fishing. Choosing players on merit is the only true and honest way to choose our team.

  5. This would be interesting to watch. The IRB never suspended South Africa during apartheid. In 2014/15 the IRB/World Rugby body decided to honour apartheid springboks by inducting them into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
    The IRB never recognised those who fought against apartheid, instead keeping South Africa as a full member, with them even enjoying voting rights.

    By inducting apartheid springboks into the Hall of Fame, the IRB/World Rugby body displayed open disdain for the ravages of apartheid. In South Africa, honour is bestowed on apartheid achievements in sport, specifically rugby, with apartheid’s victims considered as an afterthought, and a necessary ‘evil’, and the price to pay for the legitimisation of apartheid history. Because South Africa & the world honours the legacy of a team where merit was NEVER a consideration.

    Let’s watch with interest to see if all those matches played between 1906 and 1992 will be stripped of ‘TEST’ status.

  6. We have seen racial discrimination in Zimbabwe over the last 16 years and all it does is create suffering and collapse. Only countries where meritocracy is recognized irrespective of what color you are, thrive. South Africans need to stand for a culture of meritocracy.

  7. Totally agree with the above statement’s. This must change and all players to be chosen on merit. Not skin color

  8. I have seen the effect of this policy even at school level recently. Where young, talented, hard playing u/13 boys are left out because of the quota of 12/10 per team. My son asked me after the trails, why he was not considered, despite his 1.9 m plus length, 100 kg plus weight and as strong as a ox. He, and others like him were and is continued to be, very disillusioned by this policy even at their level. What do you tell your son when he asks: “what did he or his teammates do wrong to not deserve a place in a junior provincial team?” Believe me this is not me ranting about him not getting a place due to his talent or lack thereof. He asked the question purely because some of the quota players were half his, and his friend’s size…and did not display the aggression and strength they did…my answer: “sorry boet it’s not your time yet, and maybe this is not the plan the Lord has for you now”. I think he saw through it – we underestimate the intelligence of these guys at their age. Being treated fairly is such an ingrained characteristic of his generation, its scary…they all thought its completely unfair as they were not part of apartheid etc. To all the other kids who did make it on merit – congrats to you all, and I sincerely hope we will see all of you on our rugby fields in the near future, playing because you made it on merit…and NOT because you are a quota player…

    1. Agree, but Mbalula and SARU will fill stadiums with free tickets. Secondly, I am not convinced that we can all stick together and do it. Thirdly it will also require none of us to switch on our TV’s and challenge Supersport to give sponsors and advertisers accurate and credible viewer number. The brave move would be for all rugby fans to cancel their DSTV subscription and force Supersport to renegotiate with SARU. Advertisers and sponsors should also be boycotted as well as sponsors like ABSA, who withdrew to enforce exactly what is happening now. Sell your Blue Telecom shares and drop the price. Sad that we have to suggest this type of behaviour, but the sponsors and advertisers are keeping this alive.

  9. So now my question becomes if the chosen players will feel accomplished by reaching the top of a lower standard team and also if the teams who beat the Boks will feel accomplished.

  10. South Africa is a very proud sporting nation.
    For anybody to accept meritocracy is unacceptable.
    Please let the best of the best to represent us.
    Transformation is required, but we need to start at club and school level.
    Only the best should walk onto the field to represent us.

  11. This is utter rubbish, most black people in South Africa play football. All players are chosen on merit!! Are white South Africans who play football discriminated against?? Rugby in is a national sport, with only the best chosen on merit. Is there a 50 per cent quota of black players in the England football team?? The past is in the past, where it should stay. Look forward and not behind!!!

    1. I read all about our sports minister and his transformation ideas. My conclusion – transformation is needed in all sports, except for soccer. I cannot help but think back to the soccer world cup in 2010. At the time the sports minister of then made a comment on national TV in the lines of “as long as he is sports minister there will not be a white face in the national soccer team. Soccer is a black sport.” At the time Booth was selected for the world cup squad but did not appear on the field once during matches (except for carrying water etc) Surely there must be other races that is good enough to qualify for our soccer team. Why is transformation good for all other sports but not soccer… and why don’t one ever hear any complaints relating to quotas in the soccer team? Why should some work their butts of to be in a team while others just walk into it? What happened to self respect, pride and honor … or is that something that just some of us where brought up with? It is such an honor to represent your country, when you out there you should deserve it. Not deserve it because of skin colour but because of hard work, dedication and again,,, hard work. I am sure that some of the “politically correct” players in other sports teams must wonder if they really deserve to be in the team. How can you justify your place in a team and be proud of your accomplishments if you know you are there because of your skin colour and not because of skill. But then again, in South Africa, if you belong to the majority, you can demand … and you will get. I hope with all my heart that, should this discrimination carry on, the public will let the stadiums run dry and not attend a single match. It is a shame that our proud sporting nation should be subjected to this petty hatred towards deserving individuals. Why can they not get over themselves and start working towards something? Come on all sportsman and woman, work for that spot on the team that you want so much. Do not expect it to happen because you have an inferiority complex that you cannot get over. Lift your heads and WORK FOR IT!!! It is only through hard work and dedication that you achieve in life.

      1. Look at where our soccer is in the world rankings. If soccer is a black sport why is SA behind every European country. When Tovey was the captain SA soccer was as high as 16 th. It is now in the seventies.

  12. If the whole team consisted of black players I would still be shouting support for The Springboks …..this providing they were picked on merit!!!!! Selecting players on their color as opposed to ability is setting the players themselves up for failure and will eventually lead to the degradation of the sport …many believe this is precisely want the Government wants .!!!!!

  13. As a non-white Saffer I always hated this quota thing. Even when an Indian like myself, Hashim Amla, was doing poorly at the start of his test career, I wanted him out! I want us to win World Cups and just don’t see color.

  14. This is so sad! Even at school level the better white players are left out due to the imposed quota system. It is similar to our employment equity. There is no way in this world that any country will move forward, progress, grow and excel, if the “weaker” leader is in charge of a company. Just look at our country. We are set to fail, fail and fail again. This is exactly what the anc government wants. They know that rugby touches us Afrikaners where is hurts. I’ say, boycot the system until it reverts back to equal rights.

  15. The 50% rule in my opinion should ONLY become applicable when blacks represent 50% of total school rugby, when a lot more black township schools play rugby, when there is 50% more black rugby clubs established and 50% more blacks playing in existing rugby clubs, and when National Broadcaster SABC TV shows 50% more rugby. You cannot expect transformation when there is no interest at grass-roots level! All this compulsory 50% transformation means is that black politicians are not prepared to do the hard work to get more blacks selected. They are relying on the whites history of success and excellence. For every excellent black rugby player waiting to be selected for Provincial or National sides… there are 10 whites also waiting and who are just as good and have done the hard work from school level.

  16. “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.”

    The legacy of apartheid is still very much one of discrimination against black people on many levels. Please keep that in mind and don’t brush it off as something that people must just get over. Racism and discrimination are ingrained in our minds and social systems – nowhere is this more obvious than in the culture of rugby (see comments above and below).

    Go ahead and argue for meritocracy, but consider, just for a minute, what it must be like trying to excel at any sport when you’re born into the average black household, sent to the average low income school, in this country.

  17. Was walking to a recent boks game at Ellis Park and batted to a guy I walked with. And yes he was a black guy who lived near the stadium. And we got to well do you watch follow soccer. And the answer gob smacked me. No they are a bunch of looters. At least when I watch rugby I fee, proud to be south African.

  18. This neatly follows on from the Solidarity case at the UN against the South African government’s racist policies. The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which found against the government and decided they should show reform.

    In addition the call to boycott sports is a rather neat irony as that is what the ANC did to get their point across.

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