Political interference the norm for future Boks

Political interference and quota selections will become the norm for Springbok teams after the World Cup in France later this year.

Following the political interference which saw Luke Watson earn his first test cap – Watson was due to make his international debut for the Springboks against Samoa at Ellis Park on Saturday – quota selections will return with a vengeance after the World Cup. Quota selections is an enforced number of non-white players being picked in a South African team.

According to a report in the Johannesburg Saturday Star newspaper, the first Springbok team of 2008 will consist of at least 10 black and coloured players.

National coach Jake White will also be replaced by the country’s first black Springbok coach – Peter de Villiers – and the side is set to be captained by Luke Watson.

Watson, the 23-year-old Stormers captain, was recently included in the Springbok training squad at the insistence of South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins, his deputy Mike Stofile and chairman of the Board of SA Rugby Mpumelelo Tshume.

The openside flanker is the son of former anti-apartheid activist Cheeky Watson, who still has close ties with the ruling ANC government in South Africa.

The Watson family are also closely associated with Zola Yeye, the Springbok team manager.

Rugby bosses in South Africa are unhappy with the slow rate of transformation and, according to the Saturday Star, believe the only way to “Africanise” a sport which has been dominated by the minority white population for over 100 years is to take radical steps.

Watson, South Africa’s Super 14 player in 2006, has often been regarded as a future national rugby captain after leading the South African Schools team, the SA Under-19 and SA Under-21 teams.

However, he has always been overlooked by White and his co-Springbok selectors. White has maintained the Stormers flanker, at 1,84 metres tall and weighing 97kg, is too small for international rugby. He also, according to White, doesn’t offer him an option in the line-outs.

De Villiers, a former Currie Cup coach with the East Rand-based Falcons and Mighty Elephants from the Eastern Cape, is currently in charge of the Emerging Springboks side who are playing in a tournament in Romania. He also coached the SA U-21 team, which won the world title in 2005.

“I have no problem with the transformation requirements,” De Villiers told the Saturday Star.

“My record at Under-19, Under-21 and provincial level speaks for itself.

“Other coaches pick black players in their squad, but don’t play them. That’s where I am different. I pick the players and play them,” said De Villiers.

He added he would meet the requirements of 10 black players in a Springbok team.

“There will be pain [in the results] but it is something we must go through to transform the team. It would be an honour for me to coach the Boks,” he told the Saturday Star.

Furthermore, De Villiers said Watson would be his obvious choice to lead the side.

“Luke was my captain with the Under-21s. He would be my first name on the team sheet he’s inspirational, dynamic and a great player.”

The Bok side to face Samoa Saturday includes five black players – JP Pietersen, Ashwin Willemse, Waylon Murray, Wayne Julies and Ricky Januarie.

Neither Hoskins nor Stofile – the country’s top rugby brass – were immediately available for comment.


365 Digital

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