Rudy Paige has been chosen for the 2015 Springbok 31 man squad for the Rugby World Cup ahead of Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard. This is after Reinach had featured in the matchday 23 in the last four Springbok tests before the announcement of the 31 man squad for the 2015 RWC while Paige has featured in none. Paige has been part of the Springbok squad for the last 3 months without getting a minute of test rugby.
It’s the selection out of the blue (no pun intended- Rudy Paige plays for the Blue Bulls, where Heyneke Meyer built his reputation) of Paige ahead of Reinach that has prompted, mainly white South Africans to point the finger at the Quota system and protest how unfair it is.
Put yourself in HM’s position. He has formed the core of players that he believes is the correct squad for him to attempt to win the Rugby World Cup. The big problem is there isn’t enough players with dark skins in this core squad.
How do you fit in enough players with dark skins to satisfy the Quota requirement and keep the Government away from interfering?
HM had to go back and re-assess the squad. He probably looked at scrum-half first as there are 3 scrum-halves in the squad. HM’s man that he would choose everytime for the Boks would be Fourie du Preez. After Fourie, HM has shown through his selections that Ruan Pienaar is his man.
So after choosing these two players, the guy in third spot is very unlikely to see much action. The opportunities and influence that this third scrum-half will have will be minimal.
Reinach although featuring in the last four tests for the Springboks only accumulated 44 minutes of game time from those four tests. This indicates to me that the coach wasn’t that impressed with this player because he gave him so little game time. Especially when the coach was using these tests to prepare for the ultimate prize the RWC. Meaning he was using these tests to experiment, try out different combinations.
So HM found himself in a position where he had to pick a player with a dark skin and get rid of a white guy. Cobus Reinach became the perfect fall guy. Enter Rudy Paige.
Similarly the leaving out of Heinrich Brussouw and Marcel Coetzee and favouring Siya Kolisi can be explained. HM has never been a fan of Heinrich Brussouw and only played him recently because of the length of the loose forward injury list. Marcel Coetzee was told when the Boks faced the World XV that it was his last chance to prove himself. This again speaks volumes of where HM regards this player. On the brink of being dropped.
The difference between Rudy Paige and Siya Kolisi is that Kolisi already has more than 10 caps for the Springboks. There would be a fair few rugby supporters who would pick Kolisi in the Springbok squad on merit. He is highly regarded by most Bok fans.
Zane Kirchner was another that seemed to suddenly come into reckoning again. With the Zane Kirchner selection it was not as if there was a player in direct competition with him for the spot. Some people spoke of Francois Steyn being full-back or at least being a utility back. If people are honest Steyn did not deserve to be selected going on his form for the last two years.
The question could be asked if we left Kirchner out then one of Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo and Jesse Kriel could cover full-back as all three of these players have played full-back before. So by dropping the dark skinned Kirchner the white skinned Jan Serfontein could have been chosen in the midfield.
This has prompted many white fans to suggest that politics is ruining rugby and the coach is being forced to pick players of colour.
The coach can hold his hands up and say I’m a victim of the Quota system and players like Reinach, Brussouw, Coetzee, Steyn and Serfontein missed out because of this unfair system.
However there is another way to look at it.
Quotas were introduced to force transformation (transforming rugby in SA from an all white preserve to a sport representing the whole population). Why must transformation be forced?
People want to keep it as it was and fail to see the benefits of rugby becoming more popular in black communities. People feel they will lose the sport they so dearly love and it will be ruined and forever changed by blacks taking over the sport.
The truth is the holding onto the tiny pieces of the past and the resistance to change has been eating away at SA rugby like a cancer for the last 20 odd years. A few people have realised this but most choose to ignore it as rugby is imploding in SA.
Rudy Paige has a whole host of players, all of them white, that most rugby fans would have chosen before they considered him. Faf de Klerk was the guy that impressed most in Superrugby. Francois Hougaard has taken the blame unfairly for many Bok and Bull shortcomings and in my mind remains a very exciting player, Sarel Pretorius has been around for a long time without much reward. The already mentioned Cobus Reinach. Paige’s other Bull’s teammate Piet van Zyl, adopted Frenchman Rory Kockett. Jano Vermaak and Michael Claasens may be considered before you would get serious about choosing Rudy Paige.
If Heyneke Meyer was at all committed to transformation, Rudy Paige definitely would not have been selected. Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe would have. Scarra Ntubeni may have been given a better chance. Trevor Nyakane might have been tried out at tight-head prop so that he doesn’t have to replace Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira at loose-head. Brian Mujati may have been found a way to come back into Bok reckoning and yes Siya Kolisi would have got the call ahead of Brussouw and Coetzee.
The problem with Elton Jantjies is he is in the most pivotal decision making position on the field and this would fly in the face of how a senior player like Victor Matfield would want the Boks to play. Lionel Mapoe at outside centre again could influence play.
South Africa for so long has picked their dark skinned players on the wing. Where their influence is minimal.
With Elton Jantjies you would have a coloured (in SA there is a difference between black and coloured, Coloured refers to Cape Coloureds) player calling the shots. If you were a young black or coloured kid who would you regard higher, the guy on the wing being given the ball by the whites to run and score or the main man in the middle of the action calling the shots?.
Heyneke Meyer said Rudy Paige plays very similarly to Fourie du Preez. Where is plan B then?
Elton Jantjies would never be HM’s plan A but he is unlike the three flyhalves, Handre Pollard, Pat Lambie and Morne Steyn, that have been selected.So Jantjies could have been plan B.
Lionel Mapoe was in outstanding form in Superrugby. Based on performances he should have been the frontrunner for the number 13 top. Instead HM chose Jesse Kriel at 13 moving Kriel from 15 where he had played at for the whole of Superrugby for the Bulls.
I take nothing away from Kriel, he was given an opportunity and he took it with both hands and then some. He didn’t select himself. It was the coach.
Mapoe was an opportunity missed as far as transformation goes.
Selecting Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje in the tests in the run up to the squad announcement, when he is no where near ready for international rugby was again to me done in a devious manner to discredit the Quota system. It seems the only fatality so far is Mohoje’s career.
Again the question is why are the players of colour, who deserve selection being so blatantly not given an opportunity while players of colour who don’t really deserve a place are given a go but in a way that its impact is minimised.
By being a victim of Quotas it is intended to discredit transformation. This in turn slowly feeds the cancer that is destroying SA rugby.