Posts Tagged ‘Rugby World Cup’

Let’s pick the right Bok coach this time

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  • SHOULD Heyneke Meyer’s contract be extended? I think it should — but only for a year, as a holding operation. This would be just long enough to enable the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to give proper consideration to the question of who should coach the national team next and what his job description should be.

    They should take their time about it. A Springbok coach has more complex challenges than an England or All Blacks coach. It won’t be easy to find the right man. We should also completely rethink what we want from the next coach and how we want him to shape our national team.

    The Saru general council will decide on December 4 whether to extend his contract. If they decide against, they will be without a national coach by the end of the month. What the union must not do is resort to the old short-term, knee-jerk approach to hiring coaches.

    Peter de Villiers got the job because it was felt that a black coach was needed. De Villiers got the job ahead of perhaps a more appropriate black candidate because he was strongly pushed by certain Saru factions.

    Meyer was appointed belatedly and in haste in 2012 because Saru were so keen to get rid of De Villiers. Meyer’s appointment was partly because it was felt he should have been appointed in place of De Villiers in 2008.

    The Rugby World Cup has shown up Meyer’s limitations. I write this with some regret because I like him: he is an engaging, open man and the readiness with which he shares intense emotion is refreshing in a macho world. But the fact is that he was a brilliant club coach who has not been able to replicate that success on the national canvas.

    At the Bulls, Meyer could exert control. He recruited players straight from school and moulded them in his image. They owed their careers to him. Nor did he have to venture out of his cultural comfort zone — white, Afrikaans and Christian. The main source of pressure, selection-wise, was the white right. The only imperative was to keep winning and his game plan did that very effectively.

    This year, as national coach, he was relying on the same players and the same plan.

    The master class in modern rugby provided by the All Blacks at the World Cup final showed up the creakiness of his game plan, and he wasn’t able to come up with anything else. He also showed himself to be woefully out of touch with the national psyche.

    One would have thought the outpouring of anger at his squad selection before the Boks set off for the UK might have had some effect. But apparently not. His selections revealed no change in his reluctance to place trust in young players of colour.

    He has given only one young black player, Trevor Nyakane, consistent game time. Nothing he has said in the past few days has indicated that he acknowledges how inadequate this is.

    A continuation of this will damage the Springbok brand. There is a risk it will return rugby to the bitter, divisive role it occupied during apartheid.

    There have been hints that some of Meyer’s assistant coaches might be axed: partly as sacrificial lambs to appease public anger and partly to make way for an assistant of colour. This won’t do. Meyer will still call the shots.

    If, as it should be, our aim is to consistently be the best in the world, we need to be copying the All Blacks. Much has been written about the need to emulate their system of central contracting and collegial interaction between franchises — with the national team being given priority by all parties. Obviously, this is ideal but it is not likely to happen soon, given all the factional self-interest within Saru.

    But, with the national coach, we can start at Year Zero. He should be tasked primarily with two things: inculcating a style of rugby that empowers players to beat the best at their own game by putting brains ahead of brawn. Players should be encouraged to assess the situation unfolding before them intelligently and then seizing whatever opportunity it presents skilfully and incisively.

    Second, he needs to develop a team that properly represents our demographics. He should be given the time to do this. There should not be pressure to win the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019. The priority should be the building of a winning habit that would peak in 2023.

    Planning and an emphasis on continuity are important. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was assistant to Graham Henry, who was himself head coach for eight years.

    The next Springbok coach should be tasked with growing his successor.

    A Kiwi coach might well be the way to go. An added advantage is that he would be unencumbered by the South African race filter. But merely having been born in New Zealand is not enough.

    John Plumtree and John Mitchell have been mentioned. I’d suggest Saru chat to black players who have played under both — not current players because they wouldn’t talk openly for fear of jeopardising their careers — but former players who have nothing to lose. They may or may not endorse either or both of the Johns, but they will certainly have very interesting things to say about how black players fare under different coaches.

    Coaches with more recent experience of New Zealand structures might also have more to offer. Hansen, for instance, is rumoured to be stepping down in 2017. He might be worth waiting for.

    • This column first appeared in Business Day

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SHOULD Heyneke Meyer’s contract be extended? I think it should — but only for a year, as a holding operation. This would be just long enough to enable the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to give proper consideration to the question of who should coach the national team next and what his job description should […]

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Fiddling while the jersey burns

News | Non Fiction | South Africa | Uncategorized Comments Off

IN A speech in Durban a few days ago, South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins fingered schools as one of the stumbling blocks to transformation in the Springboks. Saru runs an annual budget of close on a billion rand.

All they have to do is channel some of that into the cash-strapped schools in the Eastern Cape bursting with black rugby talent and passion. Add a few high-performance academies to hone the skills of the front runners and then persuade its coaches to give all players of colour equal opportunity with white players and you’d soon see a lot more black Springboks.

To his credit, Hoskins took responsibility for not adequately supporting previous Springbok coaches. This presumably included Peter de Villiers, last seen presiding over the public burning of the Springbok jersey.

The furore over the paucity of black players in the 2015 Bok squad has been dismissed in some quarters as par for the course in a World Cup year. But this is nonsense.

The Rugby World Cup is a big deal: it’s when we show the world who we are — in technicolour. If, 20 years into democracy, we are still saying that excellence is white, it’s a problem, not least for the black kids dreaming of donning the green-and-gold.

Obviously, ideally, this should not blow up at World Cup time and should be dealt with on an ongoing basis. But it doesn’t look as if it is.

The men in charge of rugby continue to fiddle while the jersey burns. They are at present fiddling, yet again, with the Currie Cup format. The proposal on the table now seems to be that the Vodacom Cup will be abolished from next year and replaced with an extended Currie Cup.

Saru is not giving out any information but according to an apparently reliable report in Die Burger, from next year there will be 15 teams in the Currie Cup, which will include one from Namibia. In the first half of the year, the 14 unions plus Namibia will play each other in a newly constituted Currie Cup. The top nine will go on to play each other, while the remaining six will battle it out for a lesser title. This means an awful lot of Currie Cup rugby will be played during a protracted Super Rugby tournament.

Our 40-odd rugby schools and the Currie Cup are the bedrock of development in South African rugby. Schools are where rugby talent is developed. The Currie Cup is where promising young players are blooded for Super Rugby. This production line is important for professional rugby as more senior players head off overseas.

In 2012, the Currie Cup was altered to accommodate an extended Super Rugby campaign. Since then, SA’s oldest competition has haemorrhaged viewers and Absa is ending its sponsorship. Won’t more Currie Cup games from second-tier teams competing for viewers with Super Rugby diminish interest further?

More to the point, is this an appropriate use of Saru funds?

In its constitution, adopted in 2009, Saru states as an objective:

•  5.1 applying its income, directly and indirectly, for the promotion, development, support, upliftment, administration and playing of rugby in SA;

•  5.2 pursuing policies and programmes, at national and all other levels, aimed at redressing imbalances of the past and creating a genuinely nonracial, nonpolitical and democratic dispensation for rugby in SA;

•  5.3 adopting and enacting such measures as will foster, promote, regulate and encourage the playing of rugby and provide facilities for rugby in SA, and in any other territory as may be decided upon, for all persons, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender, and to eliminate any discrimination and inequality among players and officials alike;

If it is to honour its own constitution, should a large chunk of Saru’s millions go into supporting the small-town fiefdoms that run these second-tier teams? Or into paying player squads, most of whom will be white and whose development will have been paid for by the schools mentioned by Mr Hoskins?

What would make more sense is to confine the Currie Cup to the Super Rugby franchises. The small unions should be playing semi-professional rugby, relying on local sponsorship for funds. Saru should be applying its income to funding a development campaign in areas where there is abundant black rugby talent.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to see how the Bok transformation issue is playing out in the political landscape.

The burning of the Springbok jersey accompanied the launch of a new organisation, Supporters Against Racist Rugby Associations, in Mossel Bay. The Western and Eastern Cape are the sites for some of the most closely fought battles between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA). These are also the provinces that host the most black talent and experience the most frustration among black fans.

One of the most thoughtful recent political interventions came from DA shadow spokesman on sport Solly Malatsi. In an oped article, he outlined the importance of a systematic overhaul of rugby development. If the ANC drops the ball, perhaps the DA will pick it up?

• This column first appeared in Business Day

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IN A speech in Durban a few days ago, South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins fingered schools as one of the stumbling blocks to transformation in the Springboks. Saru runs an annual budget of close on a billion rand. All they have to do is channel some of that into the cash-strapped schools […]

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The rebirth of a Bok legend

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IT IS a career trajectory that would work in almost any profession. Start off with a full-time job where you can gain skills, experience and contacts.

And, important, become familiar with the ecosystem in your particular field. Then, when you tire of having your prospects determined by the whims of a boss, you develop your own vision for your career and set about making it happen.

In rugby, the process starts earlier and is more compressed.

Take Fourie du Preez, for instance. He was recruited by Heyneke Meyer while still at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool and joined the Bulls as a contracted player as soon as he had matriculated.

Du Preez was a founding member of the killer squad, handpicked and moulded by Meyer, which went on to win the Currie Cup for three consecutive years and, in 2007, became the first South African team to bring home the Super Rugby trophy. Later that year, the same Bulls core helped the Springboks to their second Rugby World Cup victory under Jake White.

Two years later, Du Preez was key to one of the best ever years for a Springbok team. In 2009, they first beat the British and Irish Lions and, then the All Blacks. Not once but three times.

But, after a long golden run in terms of injuries, Du Preez finally succumbed. In 2010, he had surgery for a shoulder injury, followed by six months of rehab.

No sooner was he back on the field in 2011 than he injured his knee in a Super Rugby game.

And then, of course, he was part of the Springbok team which was ejected so ignominiously from the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Despite the fact that he was only 30 and widely considered the best scrumhalf in the world, Du Preez turned his back on international rugby and settled for the relative obscurity of Japanese club rugby.

It was a bold move for a man who had never lived anywhere but Pretoria. But he was burnt out from the emotional and physical toll of having played 80 minutes in a pivotal position of almost every Currie Cup, Super Rugby and Springbok game for 10 years.

If it wasn’t for Japan, he says, he might have stopped playing rugby altogether after the 2011 World Cup.

Not only has his stint at Suntory Goliath taught him a new approach to the game, being immersed in a foreign culture has revitalised him.

Simple things, such as using public transport to get to training, delight him, as does the equilibrium he has managed to achieve between work and family.

Most of his teammates at Suntory Goliath have other jobs at the company so rugby is confined to half the day. Du Preez says he has learnt from this that it is entirely possible to balance professional rugby with study and family.

These days many players are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to their careers. They mix and match clubs and countries: they play Super Rugby but eschew Currie Cup, opting instead to spend the South African summer playing in Europe or Japan.

This means they are available for selection for some Springbok games.

Where Du Preez has broken the mould is that he won’t even play Super Rugby. He told me that one of his chief reasons for leaving SA was Super Rugby, with its punishing toll on players’ bodies and the endless travel. For most players, this would be a risky move — after all, Super Rugby is the parade ground where players hope to catch the eye of the Springbok coach. But Du Preez is experienced and confident enough to know he can get away with it and still make it into the Bok squad. In fact, judging by the injury list at the Springbok camp a few weeks ago, it is a wise move.

Anyone playing Super Rugby now could break down with a long term injury which could rule them out of the World Cup.

Luck is on his side in that no one has emerged to seriously challenge him for the scrumhalf berth. Even if there had, it is unlikely Meyer would have gone to the UK without one of his most trusted proteges.

The Japanese season runs from September to the end of February. Du Preez told me that, since 2013, he has been returning to SA for our winter months and following his own training and conditioning routine.

He has been doing rehab for an ankle injury and cross-training in a private gym three times a week. Soon his routine will include speed training and contact fitness and possibly a few games with the Bulls’ under-21s.

His regimen was worked out by specialists in Japan. He makes it clear that he has moved on from what he learnt at the Bulls. Du Preez is honing and refining his game. With the new nimbleness in his approach to life, we can expect Du Preez to add a layer of sophistication to the Springbok game.

Because there is no doubt that this is where he is headed. Heyneke Meyer has made it clear Du Preez is part of his plans for the World Cup. He will be integrated into the squad during the Rugby Championships and hopefully be at peak game fitness during the key World Cup games.

Unlike most of the rest of the team, who will be worn out by months of Super Rugby, Du Preez will be fresh and fit.

*This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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IT IS a career trajectory that would work in almost any profession. Start off with a full-time job where you can gain skills, experience and contacts. And, important, become familiar with the ecosystem in your particular field. Then, when you tire of having your prospects determined by the whims of a boss, you develop your […]

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Outsiders and insiders

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I HAVE just returned from London, where I looked in vain for some evidence of excitement building up for the Rugby World Cup.

Understandably, I guess, it has been eclipsed by Thursday’s general election, which will be as closely fought as the play-offs between the world’s top rugby teams are likely to be in a few months’ time.

The latest polls show the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck, with the third most popular party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), at 12%. UKIP, with its narrow definition of Britishness and its anti-immigrant stance, has to constantly fend off accusations of racism.

For instance, they have just had to ditch one of their prospective MPs, Robert Blay, for threatening to put “a bullet between the eyes” of his Conservative opponent if he ever became prime minister. Ranil Jayawardene, said Blay, was “not British enough to be in our parliament” because his father was born in Sri Lanka.

We are not the only country struggling with xenophobia. Between the dodgier elements of UKIP and an ongoing demonisation of immigrants in the right-wing media, those perceived as outsiders might not feel too welcome in Britain either.

Unless they happen to be rugby players. The inaugural European Champions Cup, which replaced the Heineken Cup, has intensified the competition between French and English clubs and some of the latter are campaigning to be allowed to spend more on recruitment, which means more players from the rugby-rich southern hemisphere.

In another closely fought contest, Toulon last Saturday beat Clermont to take the European crown for the third time in a row. Toulon are the game-changers in European rugby. Their continued ascendance has rattled the English clubs.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjelellal has the money to buy the best players from all over the world. The English clubs, though, have a salary cap of £5m. The Saracens have been accused of breaching this cap, a charge they vigorously deny. However, the owner of Saracens, Nigel Wray, is quoted as saying the salary cap “does not allow us to compete on a level playing field with teams in Europe”.

However, as Robert Kitson points out in the Guardian, it is not simply unlimited funds that make Toulon impregnable.

“The collective desire to deliver a suitably grand send-off for their three soon-to-retire heavyweights, Ali Williams, Bakkies Botha and Carl Hayman — the trio’s names were even stitched into the inside of the team’s jerseys” — helped to give Toulon the edge on Saturday.

“Toulon may have loads of money but the French champions also have the good sense to sign committed people rather than mercenaries … it is Toulon’s can-do attitude towards recruitment that is taking them to places others cannot reach.”

Outsiders can become insiders then, given the right attitude by the hosts.

The looming Rugby World Cup gives the Us and Them question a new impetus.

Toulon player Steffon Armitage is the subject of hot debate. Britain’s Rugby Football Union stipulates that, in order to be considered for the England squad, a player must play in the Aviva Premiership. Exceptions are permitted, though, and one would have thought Armitage’s talents would have had England coach Stuart Lancaster calling.

Apparently, Lancaster is afraid introducing an outsider — even a British one — would upset his current team.

Pragmatic Australia have no such qualms. The Australian Rugby Union has amended its RWC eligibility rules in time to give another Toulon veteran a shot at inclusion. Matt Giteau might get another chance to play for his country. When he left Australia for France, the rules were that foreign-based players were no longer eligible to play for the Wallabies. The new rules allow players with over 60 Test caps and at least seven years with Australian rugby into the squad.

We too have changed our rules since Heyneke Meyer became coach. The fact that the RWC will be played in the UK means players accustomed to northern hemisphere conditions will have an edge. That includes another Toulon player, Bryan Habana. Described last week in the London Sunday Times as “still quick but not lightning anymore and he spends too much time moaning”, Habana is nevertheless guaranteed a spot in the Springbok squad.

Meantime, World Rugby is under pressure to review its rule that allows foreign players to qualify for a national squad if they have lived in their host country for three consecutive years and have not been capped at A level in their country of birth. Rory Kockott qualifies to play for France under this rule.

I hope they review it. I think it takes the expediency of professionalism a bit too far. Rugby World Cups bring out the visceral patriotism in most of us and we ought to be allowed to indulge it once every four years, safe in the knowledge that every player in our team is indeed one of us.

 

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I HAVE just returned from London, where I looked in vain for some evidence of excitement building up for the Rugby World Cup. Understandably, I guess, it has been eclipsed by Thursday’s general election, which will be as closely fought as the play-offs between the world’s top rugby teams are likely to be in a […]

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All Bok games for 2015 RWC are sold out

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TICKETS for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will go on general sale tomorrow, but the bad news for South Africans is that every Springbok game is already sold out.

However, some of these tickets will have been block-booked by travel agents for hospitality packages and those that remain unsold will come back onto the market next autumn.

If you want to be guaranteed a ticket, you could opt for one of these packages now, but they are not cheap. SA Rugby Travel, for instance, are still offering packages to pool games and the knockout games.

But just going to the Springboks’ first pool game against Japan in Brighton on September 19 will cost almost R20,000 and to that you have to add airport taxes, which will probably bring it to about R26,000. That covers only the flight and ticket. You still have to fork out for accommodation and travel within the UK.

Packages include tickets to the “bronze final” (the match between the runners-up) and the final, which are going for about R40,000, including airport tax. Again, that is just for a match ticket and a flight.

Meanwhile, the team that will carry our hopes and dreams in September and October next year is being crystallised. This Saturday’s game against Wales will be Heyneke Meyer’s last chance to assess individual players’ capacity to adapt to playing in northern conditions. The contenders for several Rugby World Cup positions look pretty settled but, in others, the competition is still fierce.

Some World Cup veterans currently playing in Japan — including JP Pietersen and Fourie du Preez  — are expected to return to SA next year, which will guarantee them selection.

European-based players such as Francois Louw and Schalk Britz have an edge because they will be familiar with northern playing conditions and the way the laws are applied.

Next year, for the first time, Rugby World Cup squads have been expanded from 30 to 31 to include an extra prop. Judging on previous selections, this is likely to boil down to a 17/14 split between forwards and backs.

The squad will probably include two each in the loosehead and tighthead positions and three hookers. Five players are likely to be chosen to cover the three loose-forward positions.

There are several old-timers and newcomers who could do the numbers six, seven and eight jerseys proud and Meyer will find it hard to choose between them. These positions tend to carry a high attrition rate in terms of injury, so a player’s ability to switch between them would come in useful. Versatility is also important in the back line, which means utility backs are favoured.

Another position that requires plenty of back-up is scrum-half, and usually three are included in the squad.

If the 2015 Rugby World Cup 31 were to be chosen now, this is what it would probably look like:

Loosehead props: Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane, the latter having earmarked a place after his performance against Italy’s Martin Castrogiovanni.

Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis; Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Britz, largely because of the latter’s experience in playing in the north.

Tighthead props: Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen, with Frans Malherbe as an outside contender.

Locks: Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Flip van der Merwe and/or Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Loose-forwards:Incumbents are Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen. But Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Teboho Mohoje, Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi are all serious contenders. Mohoje can also cover lock.

Scrumhalves: Fourie du Preez, Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard.

Flyhalves: Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard.

Left wings: Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo/Seabelo Senatla.

Inside centres: Jean de Villiers, who has also proved himself over the past three years to be the best man to lead the team through the World Cup; and Damian de Allende.

Outside centres: Jaque Fourie and Jan Serfontein.

Right wing: JP Pietersen, and Cornal Hendricks.

Fullback: Willie le Roux and Johan Goosen.

Several of the back line players can cover a number of positions, which increases their value. For instance, JP Pietersen is both wing and centre. Lambie can cover both fly-half and fullback, as can Johan Goosen. Lwazi Mvovo can cover both No 11 and No 15.

Our four pool games are fairly easy. Japan first, which should be a doddle.

Then Samoa in Birmingham, which is dangerous in terms of brutal play. Scotland comes next and a passionate home crowd in the gutsy northern city of Newcastle could spur the Scots on.

And, finally, the US — mighty in the real world but a pushover on the rugby field.

On October 17 come the quarterfinals, when everything could change.

 

*This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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TICKETS for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will go on general sale tomorrow, but the bad news for South Africans is that every Springbok game is already sold out. However, some of these tickets will have been block-booked by travel agents for hospitality packages and those that remain unsold will come back onto the market […]

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Too true, Archbishop Tutu!

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imagesRUGBY, like any other high profile sport, is about heroes. This is good, because we need heroes. Boys, for instance, will look at the guy in the Springbok jersey, note his extraordinary skill and athleticism; his loyalty to team and country; his magnetic capacity to attract adoration, money and pretty girls and think: I want to be him.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about how, given SA’s world record-breaking levels of inequality, it was so much harder for black boys to become Springboks — and acquire the accompanying hero status (A tale of two would-be rugby Springboks — Johannes and Fikile, September 4)

One of the many responses I got was from another international hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He wrote: “Of course, she is right, that we need the transformation of our society. But you do have black players who have emerged and it is up to us to nurture them as we seek to transform society. Precisely because they have made it against such formidable odds, they should be treasured. Even when they are obviously better than their white counterparts, they have white players who have all the advantages she mentions picked ahead of them.

“You have the (Siya) Kolisis, etc, who, precisely because they have come out of the morass of disadvantage, should be snapped up. Her argument seems to be that we should wait until, as it were, the fields have been levelled before we can demand that more black players are picked.

“Of course, we must transform SA and in the meantime pick those who have made it against all odds. They should be rewarded for their remarkable tenacity.”

I was pleased to get this, partly because some of the other responses I got were along the lines of: oh well, we are off the hook now. Until the government gets round to feeding and educating black boysproperly, we can’t have more black Springboks.

Which is not what I meant at all.

But mainly I’m delighted that someone of Tutu’s stature is engaging in the debate about transformation ahead of our next big milestone — the 2015 Rugby World Cup — and I hope he continues to do so.

Tutu’s credentials for this debate are impeccable: not only did he play rugby but he is also intimately acquainted with the hardships of growing up black and poor under apartheid.

“Tutu joined the most junior of the school’s rugby teams (the Johannesburg Bantu High School in Western Native Township), his slightness dictating that he play scrumhalf. This was the beginning of a life-long love of the sport: on Saturdays, carrying sandwiches made by his mother, he caught a train on his own to the original Ellis Park rugby ground in Johannesburg and, from the small pen set aside for black spectators, watched Transvaal rugby heroes such as Jan Lotz,” Tutu’s biographer, John Allen, records in Rabble-rouser for Peace.

Allen goes on to describe how Tutu was sent to stay with an uncle closer to his school when his parents could no longer afford the train fare. He shared a backyard shack with two to five others at a time and had to wash at a communal outdoor cold tap. Much of his and his fellow pupils’ time outside the classroom went into finding food.

Like Nelson Mandela, Tutu displayed an early and extraordinary magnanimity towards the then recalcitrant white rugby community. Unlike Mandela, who was largely politically motivated, Tutu’s love of rugby also kicked in.

At the Springboks’ first game in the 1995 Rugby World Cup — against Australia at Newlands — the Springboks gave Tutu a No24 jersey. Afterwards, he told Die Burger that, if the Boks won, he wouldwalk down Adderley Street wearing the jersey. A promise he duly went on to fulfil after that historic victory in the final against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, where Tutu was once confined to the hokkie set aside for “bantus”.

There is a back story to each of the men about to don Springbok jerseys for next month’s end-of-year tour to Europe and it is mostly far from glamorous. Obviously, great natural talent is a starting point, but what gets any player to the point where he is good enough to represent his country is hard work, sacrifice and discipline.

Above all, it is about determination and perseverance in the face of the many obstacles that will block the paths of any aspirant Springbok: failure, rejection, injury. The ability to absorb these setbacks and nevertheless continue to pursue the dream is what marks out anyone who makes it to the top in the highly competitive world of professional sport.

As Tutu points out, the black players from poor backgrounds who have made it into rugby’s highest ranks have displayed extraordinary tenacity. This means that they possess in buckets one of the more important characteristics of a top rugby player. That alone should give them added value to a Bok team.

On top of that is the hope and inspiration it gives to thousands of other poor black boys dreaming of joining the ranks of their heroes.

 

 

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RUGBY, like any other high profile sport, is about heroes. This is good, because we need heroes. Boys, for instance, will look at the guy in the Springbok jersey, note his extraordinary skill and athleticism; his loyalty to team and country; his magnetic capacity to attract adoration, money and pretty girls and think: I want […]

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