Heyneke in the spotlight


Meyer will make the announcement on Friday in Durban where his squad is fine-tuning their preparations ahead of the global tournament.

His final squad will come under sharp focus from various sectors of society, including politicians who have gone as far as branding the South African coach a racist.

Topping the list of his political detractors is ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe while trade union Cosatu will also be fine-combing the composition of the squad.

Transformation in the Springbok team, or the lack thereof, made banner headlines after the Springboks suffered their first ever defeat to Argentina in Durban during the Rugby Championship.

Meyer’s decision to start Jesse Kriel on the wing ahead of Lwazi Mvovo caused outrage from fans who believed the latter was the better player, while others voiced their concern about the lack of representivity (of black players) in the team.

The Springbok coach has during his tenure made many decisions that may be construed as being racist in nature, when one looks at some of his questionable selections in the past.

The selection of Jaques Potgieter ahead of Siya Kolisi during a Test match played in Port Elizabeth in 2012 serves as a fine example of where the coach went for the white player when there was an equally good black guy who could do the job.

History would later teach us that Potgieter developed into one of Super Rugby’s star players – winning the trophy with the Waratahs in 2014 – while Kolisi struggled with injury and became a rising star for a Stormers team that in recent times have won the SA Conference title thrice.

Meyer’s hesitance to give Elton Jantjies a fair chance to cement his place in the team was also considered racist in certain circles.

The Lions pivot had to watch as he was leapfrogged in the national set-up by a then 20-year-old Johan Goosen who would go on to earn six Test caps.

Later Handrè Pollard, another 20-year-old who was given his first start for the Springboks, jumped the line and has since racked-up 13 Test caps.

Jantjies was, however, not the only flyhalf in South Africa who was benched or dropped while Meyer continued to experiment with his team’s key decision maker.

Pat Lambie was also overlooked on more than one occasion prior to picking up an injury that saw him miss out on a few matches this year.

On another occasion, Francois Hougaard was selected to start at wing, again at the expense of a player of colour. Subsequently Meyer was lambasted on several occasions for not doing his part to select a more representative side.

Two of Meyer’s former Bulls players John Mametsa and Fudge Mabeta have spoken out about the lack of opportunities given to black players at the highest level.

Meyer and his spin-doctors would have anticipated the criticism and of late have refused to be drawn into a racial mudslinging match.

The hype that is created around a World Cup further fuelled the transformation fires to such an extent that the race of centre Damian de Allende became a contentious issue and deserving of front page news in a national weekly newspaper.

De Allende’s family have publicly made it clear that their son, the Springbok number 12, is white.

Those who operate in Meyer’s circle of trust, however, maintain that he has never taken race into consideration when selecting his teams.

It is hard to believe in 2015, 24 years after the infamous Unity Talks, a national rugby coach can follow his head and select whomever he sees fit, regardless of race?

During his time at the helm, Meyer has made no secret of his preference of character ahead of raw talent and as an Afrikaans-speaking male; he was always going to have better relationships with players he had more in common with.

His first and most important objective is to ensure that the team wins – and up until fairly recently he had ticked that box.

On the transformation score, the coach lost that battle before he signed on Saru’s dotted line.

Under the current rugby structures that have been devised to promote exclusivity, Meyer can be seen as a product of a flawed system.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins recently singled out schools as the main culprits for the slow rate of transformation, a subject was first mooted by the late President Nelson Mandela who opted for a pragmatic approach.

“Gentlemen, I want the Springbok to remain our national sporting emblem. I do know how you people feel about it, but we have taken so much away from the white man. Let us at least, as a gesture of reconciliation, allow him to keep his Springbok,” Mandela said.

This ensured that the rugby structures that are in place today continues to enrich a minority.

In 2014, the Soweto Rugby Union (SRU) was established and one of their main objectives was to ensure that race is removed from rugby and that talent is rewarded across the board.

As for Heyneke Meyer, he will have to follow his instincts when picking his 31-man squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Colour coding for the sake of saving face will add more substance to Mantashe’s claims than the outrage that will inevitably follow if he selects fewer players of colour than his predecessor Peter de Villiers. – African News Agency (ANA)

Original source: Heyneke in the spotlight