The public has been too harsh in its criticism of the SA Rugby Union (Saru), according to sports minister Fikile Mbalula, who insists the federation needs more time to implement transformation strategies.
Saru came under fire recently for the poor representation of black players in the national squad for the Rugby World Cup in England, where they finished third, but Mbalula said they would be given five years, along with 15 other codes, to achieve racial targets.
“We were under no illusions with the World Cup,” he said on Thursday.
“There was no way, based on what Saru told us, they could have met 50-50 targets.
“But our approach to transformation is organic and all-inclusive, cultivated from the bottom. We can’t just look at the top, as has been done in the past.
“Let us all, black and white, participate in the system and work together to build rugby in this country.”
Mbalula appointed the Eminent Persons Group last year to address transformation, in line with the National Sports Plan (NSP).
In May, five sports bodies – Saru, the SA Football Association, Cricket SA, Netball SA and Athletics SA – signed agreements to strive to achieve transformation.
Another 11 codes had also since started the process, in a joint drive for equal opportunity.
Codes that did not successfully adopt the transformation charter and achieve targets across all levels, including a 50-50 representation in national teams, would be sanctioned, Mbalula warned.
Punitive measures could include a reduction in funding, being de-registered as a federation or having the right to bid for major international events revoked.
Funding was the biggest challenge they faced, according to Mbalula, with R10 billion needed to fund the NSP over the next decade.
“Sport is not considered a priority for National Treasury, but we need to continue making a case for sport,” he said.
“The biggest problem is that we need to up the budget for development and other things.
“Infrastructure at schools is crucial. We have talent in every corner of our nation, so we must address that and expand at grassroots level.”