Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
10 Apr 2017
6:10 pm

Thulas Nxesi builds his innings as Sports Minister slowly

Heinz Schenk

The 58-year-old politician made his first public appearance in his new portfolio on Monday. It was refreshingly boring...

New Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi had some fun with Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane. Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images.

Ten days after his appointment, Thulas Nxesi finally made his first public appearance as Sports Minister on Monday.

And by the time the former Minister of Public Works finished a short speech at the launch of the SuperSport Challenge – a new provincial rugby tournament starting 21 April – one was left with just two impressions.

Also read: Thulas Nxesi the perfect fit to replace ‘energetic’ Mbalula?

You’re either going to miss Fikile Mbalula’s razzmatazz or you’re going to believe “boring” Thulas is a godsend, a relief from all the ego-driven drama of the last six years.

It’s early days but there’s nothing to suggest the 58-year-old is going to rock the boat.

In fact, his main objectives as minister are fairly straightforward.

“Our vision remains the same,” said Nxesi.

“We want to promote an active and winning nation. It’s imperative that we continue to increase participation from childhood and promote excellence.”

Of course there was the talk of the new tournament “broadening the pool of black players for future selection” and how government remains committed to transformation.

But transformation wasn’t the cornerstone of his rhetoric.

He’s probably more than aware how Mbalula’s strong sanctions against five national federations last year for failing to meet transformation targets – rugby and cricket included – spooked them into action.

Nxesi is probably also aware how the Proteas have married results with transformation and how rugby, in the short-term, needs to first survive economically before going full-on “T-word”.

After all, what’s the point if black players can’t make a career out of rugby?

Nxesi is definitely still feeling his way but he didn’t look uncomfortable.

He was presented with a Springbok jersey boasting No 1 on the back on stage and immediately put it on.

Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane, who’s played No 1 for most of his career, even mentioned how he and Nxesi joked about “competing for a place in the national side”.

“He told me he believes there’s still work to be done on his physique,” said a smiling Nyakane.

“But when he’s developed his abs, I might have a fight on my hands!”

One just wonders how long that type of joviality will last…

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