The telling line from SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux’s response to a question on Black Lives Matter during his media briefing this week was that “progress will not be celebrated – we will only celebrate success”.
And that is how it has to be because words and transformation charters can only take you so far, as we have seen with SA Rugby, where the World Cup-winning Springboks have been a shining light on transformation in South African sport, yet rugby has no black coaches of national representative teams and very few of provincial and club teams – and also, none in the chief administration posts across the major unions.
To that end, a group of 49 black coaches and players last week released a joint statement about the glaring lack of opportunities – and it was good to hear Roux say SA Rugby has “intent and direction” in righting the inequality.
Roux said on Tuesday: “(Director of Rugby) Rassie Erasmus has presented us with a plan around the fast-tracking of black coaches and getting us to the targets quicker than where we are at the moment – and we will look at that plan more seriously.”
That is good news but there needs to be some kind of a timeline for results to be seen so that in a year from now, we are not yet again asking the same questions about coaching representativity.
To be fair to SA Rugby, they embarrass many other sports with their comprehensive transformation plan up until 2030 that has 36 dimensions that are in line with government targets for change in sport.
But again, transformation has to be so much more than just simply ticking boxes – ultimately it has to be about the changing of attitudes and making sure prejudice towards black people in rugby is rooted out. With this in mind, I Iiked Roux’s statement that the very issues at hand go way beyond sport and are part of our daily lives. “The first thing we need to do is let people tell their stories, but more importantly we’ve got to listen to those stories and then hear what they’re saying,” Roux said.
“That’s always been the issue, letting people voice what it is they believe is wrong. We’ve got to listen to those stories but more importantly, we’ve got to hear what they are saying.” And that has to be the course of action: Listen, comprehend and then act.