SA Rugby Union on progress made in transformation

Sports, Arts and Culture

24 March 2015
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the SA Rugby Union (SARU) on its progress in transformation; getting women involved in rugby; participation of disabled persons; its alignment with the new provincial demarcations in terms of the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP); regulation of utilising foreign players in the domestic league; performance plans of provincial academies; development programmes;  governance and related issues; and its 2013 financial statement.

The Committee wanted to know about the:
- Challenges faced by the Border Rugby Football Union: Why the provincial union constitutions were still not aligned to SARU's constitution which was in line with the NSRP.
- Quotas for the Vodacom league and why was SARU not possibly awarding a bonus point to a team that fielded the right amount of black players?
- The bigger issue which was that there was a general perception that black players could not break into the national team and when they did, it was challenging for them to keep their place in the squad

It also asked:
- Whether SARU had looked at an adopt-a-school where township schools could be partnered with super rugby schools where sharing of infrastructure and capacity would take place.
- What was the percentage of black administrators in programme in the current rugby President’s Council?
- How many disabled persons were employed at SARU and how disabled were they?
- Whether rugby franchises were as committed to the transformation charter as SARU was.
- Whether rural areas were benefitting equally as urban communities from the community awareness programmes that SARU was rolling out? 
- Whether the programmes spread equally, geo-politically and in terms of hubs? Were there vacation programmes that learners could participate in during schools holidays?
- What would happen in the event that those targets were not met in 2019? What punitive measures were there to discipline both the union and the individuals responsible for achieving those targets?

The Committee said that though it understood the historical legacy of better resources at Springbok-producing schools like Grey and Dale College and other elite schools, it was curious as to whether SARU had considered using schools like those as incubators for rugby-competitive disadvantaged learners in the same manner Cricket SA had done?

 

Meeting report

SA Rugby Union briefing on progress made in transformation
Mr Oregan Hoskins, SARU President, introduced himself and his delegation: Mr Mark Alexander, Deputy President, SARU; Mr James Stoffberg, Vice President, SARU and Mr Jurie Roux, Chief Executive Officer (CEO). There were also with him Mr Basil Haddad, Chief Financial Officer, SARU, and Mr Khaya Mayedwa, Senior Manager: Government and Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Affairs, SARU. Ms Samantha McDonald, Administrator, Strategic Performance, SARU. There was also Mr Mervin Green, General Manager: Strategic Performance Management and Mr Andrew Colquhoun, General Manager, Corporate Affairs.

Mr Mervin Green, SARU General Manager: Strategic performance management said that the union would be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Minister of Sport and Recreation and thereby committing SARU to the department's Strategic Transformation Plan which was aligned with the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP). He took the Committee through the presentation which dealt with SARU's progress in transformation; getting women involved in rugby; participation of disabled persons; its alignment with the new provincial demarcations in terms of the National Sport and Recreation Plan (NSRP); regulation of utilising foreign players in the domestic league; performance plans of provincial academies; development programmes;  governance and related issues; and its 2013 financial statement (see document.

SARU was the leading rugby federation globally in terms of capacity development of coaches.
3.1 2015 Implementation Plan – Access
In terms of SARU's key performance indicator (KPI) of recruiting at 60 000 new players into rugby for 2015 the Union had already recruited 24 000 new players, half of which were young women.
 
3.1. Transformation – Demarcation
Mr Jurie Roux, SARU Chief Executive Officer, took the Committee through this section.

3.6 Annual Report and Financials
Mr Basil Haddad, SARU General Manager: Operations and Finance, said that though it had been a tough couple of years for the union, it was reasonably happy with its performance as there were also new finance contracts from 2016 onwards that would drive business at SARU.

Discussion
The Chairperson welcomed the presentation but noted that there was a gaping shortage of women in the union’s organisational structure. She requested that the Union had to ensure that it got women on board, even if that meant amending the union's constitution.

Mr D Bergman (DA) said that SARU's transformation policy seemed like a funeral policy because reading the plan with 2019 as the timeline for everything to be achieved; the plan seemed like another opportunity at trying to achieve quotas. Looking at successful models on transformation, there was always inputs and outputs whereas SARU's plan had interference with the process at both ends. His suggestion was that looking at school rugby, which was already working organically, SARU had to support one end of the process. SARU had to be investigating the vacuum between schools rugby and the process leading to the national team because Mr Bergman did not agree with a one size fits all approach with differentiated percentage targets by 2019. In looking at Vodacom Rugby as an experimental league, seeing that Mr Bergman saw it as such: the transformation there had to be taking place more aggressively than in any of the other leagues in SA. That would give the country projections of revenue and future interest in terms of what quotas could do as a transformative and competitive tool. In wanting to reflect the demographics of the country in rugby the country missed truly reflecting the demographics of the interest in rugby. An example was the case where the Border Rugby Football Union (BRFU) had more vehicles in use than rugby development officials at work though both were being paid for. The consequences of that phenomenon pre and during intervention were felt greatly because even to today Mr Bergman felt that the BRFU was more political than it was sports orientated.

He asked if SARU was achieving its 2015 KPIs? Instead of only using quotas for the Vodacom league why was SARU not possibly awarding a bonus point to a team that fielded the right amount of black players?
If the feeder streams from schools, clubs and provinces were functional, Mr Bergman believed SARU would not need to intervene in the national rugby squad. Seeing that the international bodies that national federations affiliated with, were interested in competition and revenue generation, SARU ran the risk of playing SA rugby out of global prominence by using that one size fits all approach and therefore he suggested that the Springboks should be left out on that transformation using a quota approach and rather that SARU should concentrate on provincial, clubs, university and schools rugby so that the quota system could be tested and evaluated there.

It was disheartening that SARU was not career mapping individuals into provincial unions and executive positions within SARU's organogram: what was the union doing in that regard?

Another problem that was emerging was that there were schools that had super rugby, others with mini unions of their own. Schools that had no such development and could not compete on those levels were now disengaging from the league because of fear of injury or embarrassment and SARU had to look at that because if that was going to be the input and provincial teams would be fed from that pool how it would then level those playing fields? Would there need to be another league where weight determined selection instead of age only.

Had it looked at adopt-a-school programme where townships schools could be partnered with super rugby schools where sharing of infrastructure and capacity would take place.

Mr P Moteka (EFF) was disappointed that the top leadership of SARU was still very white as he was looking at them in this meeting. He noted that the presentation said there were rugby development communities in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng and one in Sekhukhune where he was born and bred: he had never seen those rugby communities in both regions as he hailed from them, specifically in the townships of those regions. He concurred with SARU that transformation was not about numbers alone but quality as well, so to get both it had to go and make opportunities available to the black female and disabled communities. He also noted that the KPI on implementation demographics concerning black managers, executives and board members lacked time frames and accountable personnel.

Mr S Malatsi (DA) said that the bigger issue was that there was a general perception that black players could not break into the national team and when they did, it was challenging for them to keep their place in the squad. There were still skewed intervention areas even with the current transformation plan that indirectly would entrench the existing preferences, for example, the geographic location of those national academies. If one was an aspiring rugby player from KwaZulu Natal (KZN), Limpopo or Mpumalanga, the likelihood of access to proper training facilities and coaching was currently nil since the number of rugby playing schools was very low in those provinces.

Why were SARU's provincial academies not situated in such a way that they would be accessible for  those individuals in regions with low rugby prominence and interest, so that that representativity could be enhanced? Historically, elite private schools always would have an advantage over public rugby playing schools in terms of resources and would be attractive to aspiring athletes. Problematic with that was that players became lost in the system because competition, other social and psychological factors became more challenging in large unions. That resulted in the drawing pool for black players for Springbok colours being  very small to begin with.

The lack of gender representivity also did not only affect the SARU executive but its sub-committees and ad hoc committees as well, which spoke to the indecisiveness of the interventions as there were so many suitably qualified females in the corporate world. SARU really needed to demonstrate its intent in that regard, because any intervention without an instrument of accountability became a declaration of intent. What would happen in the event that those targets were not met in 2019? What punitive measures were there to discipline both the union and the individuals responsible for achieving those targets?

Mr L Filtane (UDM) appreciated the intention by SARU to curb the exodus of players from ‘junior’ unions to the larger more lucrative unions as the issues there concerned money and career advancement.

How was SARU going to balance winning rugby with transformation internationally? How had the union decided on 2019 as a year to target? How was it evaluating its success in terms of its targets? How was the union dealing with resistance from white players in terms of transformative rugby? What was the percentage of black administrators in the current rugby President’s Council?

Seeing that Mthatha region had been playing rugby since 1992 what was SARU's current view of the status of the sports in that region in terms of facilities and quality. What was the actual reason for the BRFU challenges?

Ms D Manana (ANC) said that in terms of the Varsity Cup programme there was no transformation at all as the varsity clubs all had little to no black players. She requested that the next time SARU came before the Committee she would appreciate an attempt at honest fact presentation and not edited details. She was aware though, of SARU's attempts to promote and develop rugby in rural areas with the Pumas franchise.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) welcomed the presentation and noted that from what she saw, the SARU executive was 50/50 black and white. There was of course a need for gender representativity to be addressed but maintained that the executive was 50/50 represented. From the Limpopo oversight tour, four talented black players had been identified and placed at Ben Vorster High School as per agreement between the Committee and the Limpopo provincial union, however that union had subsequently failed to honour that agreement. Could SARU speak to that? Were rural areas benefitting equally as urban communities from the community awareness programmes that SARU was rolling out? Were the programmes spread equally, geo-politically and in terms of hubs? Were there vacation programmes that learners could participate in? What were the entry criteria for the regional academies and were the players from there breaking into international rugby afterwards? How many disabled persons were employed at SARU and how disabled were they?

Mr S Mmusi (ANC) asked for clarity on how talent identification would be done by SARU. Did rugby franchises commit similarly to the transformation charter as SARU committed. Could SARU confidently commit that of the academy 98 players graduating contingent, would they turn professional after exiting the academies. When was SA going to get provincial rugby union constitutions aligned to SARU's constitution? Who was in charge of SA rugby honestly?

Ms B Dlomo (ANC) said that historically rugby had no footprint in rural KZN schools and communities: how was SARU targeting those communities and schools and where were the academies located in SA?

Mr S Ralegoma (ANC) said he welcomed SARU's commitment to its own target by 2019. Could SARU speak to the generic definition of ‘black’ athletes, particularly regarding player demographics? The alignment of rugby franchises in terms of the geo-political demarcations in the NSRP needed to be looked at.

The Chairperson noted that the entire Committee was in agreement on sport transformation in rural areas of SA and in terms of rugby that it was greatly lacking. The critiques from the Committee were not to discourage the work of SARU but were to drive it towards quicker solutions and their implementation. What tools was SARU going to use to monitor the implementation of its transformation plan by provincial unions? She requested that the union should second two of its executives to the Committee during its return oversight trip to Limpopo during the upcoming parliamentary recess.

Mr Hoskins said that all the comments made by the Committee were taken very seriously by his union.

Mr Mark Alexander, SARU Deputy President, said that the union’s transformation plan was aligned to the NSRP and that it had been tabled and was accepted by the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and SRSA. The plan was about creating new rugby communities. The vacuum which Mr Bergman had alluded to was the step up from Craven Week to under-20 rugby. A study done by the Sports Science centre, looking at the issues concerning that vacuum, concluded that the physical make-up of athletes between the two leagues was different. Due to the socio-economic differences, an athlete from rural Eastern Cape (EC) would go to school without having had a decent meal, whereas one from Gauteng would have had such. The Gauteng athlete would also be able to access a gym across the road from his house and so from a nutritional and training point of view, the Gauteng athlete was better off. The National Lotteries Board (NLB) funding had been allocated to the two provinces: Western Cape and Eastern Cape so that academies could be situated there as the two provinces were the high impact areas were rugby talent came from. The Eastern Cape rugby union won both finals the first and second time it attempted to do so after twenty years of absence in the under-20 rugby. The academies were working as the athletes from them were currently playing super rugby. That was the type of intervention needed in the other regions.
The strategy was two pronged as it targeted grass roots rugby through the academies and also targeted women, especially in the administration of the sport in SA. The plan was quite detailed but the presentation was a summary and franchises together with unions had bought into the plan.

SARU would be signing an agreement with the Minister of Sports and Recreation in terms of obligations and the deliverables mentioned in the presentation. The online tools mentioned in the presentation could track an athlete’s progress and also up skill coaches, administrators and teachers.

In Ekurhuleni there was a SARU development community in Kempton Park (Merlin), Duduza Tsakane (Kestrel) and Reiger Park (Praire) respectively. All those included township rugby clubs and schools which actively participated in rugby.

Mr Hoskins said that SARU regulated rugby in SA because he had never been prescribed to by anyone in SA, be it a prominent politician, a right-wing Afrikaner or businessman from somewhere in Stellenbosch for the ten years he had been President of SARU. He understood that to be politically correct from a young age, he identified himself as ‘black’ and he appreciated Mr Abrahams attempt at pointing out that SARU was 50/50 demographically represented.

The chairperson interjected that Mr Hoskins should not restrain himself from responding robustly as SA was a democracy.

The rugby legacy in SA was that rugby always had been a complex issue which was why the late Mr Nelson Mandela had adorned a rugby shirt in Ellis Park in ’95 so that the rugby trajectory could move in the direction it was moving in to date. Though SARU wanted to transform and be part of the new SA, most of the people who were steeped in rugby in the country were from very conservative political views. Those were the people SARU had to grapple with and the reality was that Mr Hoskins had to look at a white athlete and tell him that he had been replaced by a black athlete as part of transformation. Moreover the country still had to win and SARU was in that difficulty of trying to balance winning against transformation. It was going to take time though for ‘black’ athletes to be at the same level as their white counterparts in terms of nutrition, education and culture.

The Chairperson noted that race was understood differently by Members and society in general. She asked for clarity on what quotas were.

Mr Bergman reiterated that his question on the issues concerning the BRFU had not been responded to. Furthermore, the fact that the plan had been approved by so many other people except the players, was problematic for him; that coupled with the one-size-fits-all approach of the plan. The Vodacom league certainly was a quotas league in terms of transformation targeting.

Mr Moteka said that it seemed that in the areas were rugby talent was not prominent; the status quo of rugby would remain the same. In his constituency he was busy with sports and 16 teams including netball and soccer were his responsibility and he was still trying to locate a rugby development community in Sekhukhune and in Ekurhuleni Townships there was no rugby happening because those mentioned by Mr Alexander were in suburban areas.

Mr Malatsi noted that his question had not been answered completely because though he accepted that academies were placed in high impact areas: bringing rugby to places where it was not formerly prominent would be aligning it to the transformation plan so that the pool of players from those regions could access coaches and facilities to better nurture their talent.

Moreover another measure of a successful academy system was the progression of academy players into the national team. How many players from the 24 academy graduate athletes who had gotten professional contracts in the super league had broken into the national under-20 team or the Springboks?

With the understanding of the historical legacy of better resources at springbok producing schools like Grey and Dale College and other elite schools, Mr Malatsi was curious as to whether SARU had considered using schools like those as incubators for rugby competitive disadvantaged learners in the same manner Cricket SA (CSA) had done? CSA had appointed full time coaches and administrators with its provincial bodies to disadvantaged schools whereby that had already started bearing fruit.

The Chairperson asked whether SARU had already applied to the NLB to provide funding for the five remaining provinces so that academies were established.

Mr Filtane repeated his questions as they had not been addressed yet.

Mr Mmusi said that he had not been answered either on his talent identification and that racism in school rugby had also not been addressed.

Mr Roux replied that the Executive Council of SARU was 72% black and the General Council was 30% black. Talent identification was done through coach development and scouting in collaboration with SASCOC and all those individuals were employed by SARU. They were spread across all regions playing rugby. Those officials were allocated schools where they had to get all school coaches into a schools rugby network which then identified the talent that went to the academies. The academies were only three years old and therefore very few graduates from there would be found in the Springboks. Unions recruited the best black players around ages 14 and 15 years and those players would be found in the franchise system which was one way of getting into the Springboks. Stopping the exodus of players from smaller to larger unions was quite impossible because there was money involved.

Mr Roux said that the coach of the national rugby sevens, Mr Neil Powell was indeed white, but the manager of that team Mr Sebastian Prim was black though. The coach of the women’s sevens team, Mr Renfred Dazel was black and the manager, Ms Tarna Pillay, was black as well. The coach at the academy, Mr Paul Delport, was black, and Mr Marius Schoeman, who was white, was the manager of the academy.

The reality with BRFU and why SARU had intervened when it had was that it was in such deep financial trouble that there was going to be foreclosure. There were a lot of creditors lined up that were taking BRFU to court even though it had been four years since the last pay as you earn money had been paid over to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). SARU had negotiated with SARS and had cleared the first book component and was currently negotiating getting a settlement on the second book component. The number of creditors had been consolidated, but though SARU had an administrator there, the going was difficult even though the rugby had returned. There were only two contracted players as matters stood though an academy, an under-21 and senior teams were actively playing rugby. There was constant political intervention in terms of the old administration but SARU had Mr Hoskins to liaise on that factor. It would take approximately three years to get BRFU back on track completely before handing it back to its executive.
Administratively, the political intervention of the former executive of BRFU was challenging SARU's alternative intervention. It was extremely difficult to summarise a 160 page transformation strategy into a presentation because on a daily basis through SARU's online tools, Mr Green could tell the CEO how much time players played on any day.

SARU had a target for the country as a whole and accepted that some areas would have more players than others but it managed that evolving process and it was certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach because it was collaborative and consultative.

Since it was SARU's first attempt at its targets it was achieving most of its targets: where it was not, it was reviewing targets.

It was true that unless everyone pulled together, both SARU and provincial unions, to get women into the SARU organogram: in five years’ time nothing would have changed. Moreover, people also had to raise their hands that they wanted to be involved in the higher echelons of rugby in SA.

Constitutional alignment was indeed very difficult because there had to be a 75% vote and if three of its union members did not vote, SARU had to then struggle to win the war and lose some battles because it was slowly changing its constitution in terms of the clauses without raising too many eyebrows. It was tedious because unions had to now submit their financials and applications which had now changed because, without those submissions, SARU withheld broadcasting and sponsorships.

SARU had not embarked on something it was not certain of delivering or at least getting very close to delivery. There was no editing of those numbers and information. The executive understood that if SARU did not transform, the Committee, Minister and even the President of the country would not be the ones closing SARU down. Supporters would vote with their feet by simply boycotting rugby.

The Chairperson thanked SARU and told the delegation that it certainly would not be the last time the Committee engaged the union.

Mr Malatsi said that parliamentary questions were another platform that assisted Members of Parliament (MPs) in doing their job but there had not been much joy from MPs in getting responses to their questions about the salaries of SARU leadership.

Mr Hoskins said that in the SARU Annual Report, the salaries of the leadership were detailed in it, which would answer Mr Malatsi’s parliamentary question. SARU was grateful to the Committee for its oversight because that was how it was able to evaluate its progress.

SARU then handed over small tokens of appreciation to the Committee.

Minutes of the Portfolio Committee on Sport and Recreation for 18 of March 2015
The minutes were adopted without amendments.

Announcements
The Chairperson informed the Committee that its application for oversight in Limpopo had been approved by the House Chairperson and relayed the names of MPs that would be going.

The meeting was then adjourned.
 

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: