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Let's talk about Springbok selection policies

By Online Editors

Merit based or race based? Andrew Mehrtens gave his two cents on The Short Ball this week, laying into the debate about South African Rugby’s selection policies in the wake of the Springboks’ 57-0 defeat to the All Blacks.


“Their selection policies are not conducive to creating a merit based team and the prestige that goes along with knowing that you are your mates are the best in the country in their positions” the former All Black first five said.

“They’re not going to get the results until they change the top level of social engineering.” he went on to say.

It’s an interesting call, to say the least.

The topic of race-based selections have been a go-to excuse whenever South African rugby has found itself in the doldrums, but does it (excuse the pun) have any merit?

The number one example of the quota system actually working would have to be former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who is mostly remembered for his fantastic ability to say something strange and quote-worthy whenever a camera was around.

What a lot of people don’t remember though, was the fact that the Springboks enjoyed a period of parity with the All Blacks. De Villiers helmed them to five victories over their traditional rival, including a win in 2009 that was the last case of a visiting team winning a test match on NZ soil till the British & Irish Lions this year. 2009 also¬†saw the Springboks defeat the Lions in a thrilling series.


While de Villiers enjoyed a good run for a while, however he was ultimately undone by a poor showing at the 2011 World Cup. His successor Heneyke Meyer only ever won one test against the All Blacks, but enjoyed a much less scrutinised role as Springbok head coach.

The role that the quota systems play in South African sport are a little more complicated than just picking a whole bunch of one racial group.

Historically, South Africa’s pathways to top level sport were only open to white players. While the quota system seeks to change that from the top down, there needs to be buy in from the grassroots level – otherwise this mindset will never change and white players¬†will continue to have the easier entry into playing sport.

Therefore the implementation of quotas at the highest level will simply cause more resentment and division.


The reality is there is no easy answer for the problems that South African rugby faces.

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