Should The IRB Suspend South Africa From World Rugby?

South African Rugby Controversial Selection PolicyThe idea for this post came to me when I was digging out an old U2 DVD, Rattle & Hum, from my collection. Somewhere in the middle of the DVD they cut away from the music to do a quick interview with U2’s bass guitarist Adam Clayton. Clayton then proceeds to say the following  “There are some people who say you should not mix music and politics or sport and politics…well I think that’s kind of bullshit.” While we at rugby betting neither agree or disagree with the statement, it certainly does make for an interesting debate when looking at it from an IRB rule book perspective.

The IRB rule book on racial discrimination reads as follows:

In terms of By-Law 3 of the IRB rules and regulations, the IRB is compelled to prevent any form of racial discrimination in rugby. IRB Regulation 20 also stipulates that any action which may be construed as racial discrimination will be regarded as misconduct. In terms of By-Law 7, not only is a country’s international team bound to this; the provincial rugby unions resorting under a country’s board must adhere to these principles as well. In terms of By-Law 9.4(r) the IRB may institute disciplinary steps against any rugby body that violates these rules.

South African Rugby Union Selection Policy

What makes the above even more interesting is if you look at it from a SARU (South African Rugby Union) perspective. According to the South African Rugby Union’s new set of rules agreed upon in a board meeting where all local rugby unions were involved in, including the minister of sport and recreation, a strategic transformation plan was set in place. The transformation plan says that by 2019 all local and national teams should consist of a minimum of 50% black player. 

While I have no legal background, when comparing South African Rugby Union’s transformation plan against that of the IRB rule book it is as clear as daylight to me, that the transformation plan is a clear violation of By-Law 3 – “The IRB is compelled to prevent any form of racial discrimination in rugby.” Furthermore it is also a clear violation of Regulation 20 which stipulates – “any action which may be construed as racial discrimination will be regarded as misconduct.

The question should be asked – is the transformation plan, which has been approved, not a clear violation of these rules? In essence the transformation plan which compels a 50% selection of black players, is a clear discrimination against white players, since it will without a doubt take opportunities away from white players!

While the South African, racial situation is a very touchy subject, due to apartheid which we all know about. Yet it has been 26 years since the fall of Apartheid. Many of the players, currently playing in South African rugby were not even born during the Apartheid era. While I do not want this post to turn into a political debate, I do want to raise the question about double standards.

When Apartheid was in place the IRB implemented sanctions against the South African Rugby Union due to its policy of NOT considering black players for selection. Surely the new policy which has been implemented by the South African Rugby Union is very much the same as the policy which got SARU sanctioned during apartheid. Many South African rugby supporters, both black and white, calls the new policy reverse racism, which it arguably is! If the South African Rugby Union got sanctioned for its selection policy of non black players, surely they should now get sanctioned for their new policy which essentially excludes 50% of white players for selection?

AfriForum a South African lobby group has filed a complaint with the IRB against the South African Rugby Union’s  selection policy, however it has availed to nothing. The fact that the legal complaint submitted to the IRB has availed to nothing is a strong indication of double standards from the IRB in my opinion.

Simply put the IRB is not enforcing their own rules. What will happen if England Rugby Union starts enforcing the same policy? Surely there will be a huge public outcry and action will be taken against the Union by the IRB? Thus why is no action taken against the South African Rugby Union for enforcing their racial selection policy?

What will happen if nothing is done against South African Rugby Union’s Selection Policy?

If nothing gets done against SARU and their racial selection policy two things will happen. Firstly it will result in a loss to world rugby, since South African Rugby, a traditional power house of world rugby, will lose its competitiveness, due to not selecting players on merit but rather making selections to fulfill quota requirements. While no one can disagree there are very talented black rugby players in the South African rugby circles, having a 50% black selection policy is just not practical, and will surely result in South African rugby moving backwards. The selection policy will filter through to the national side and those classical South Africa vs New-Zealand encounters that we all so loved, will no longer exist.

Secondly European Rugby will be a huge beneficiary of the South African Rugby Union’s racial selection system. There will be an influx of young white talented South African rugby players to the European nations.These talented players who could have gone on to become big names for the Springboks will now wear a different colored jersey. The move to Europe due to racial selection policies has already started as long ago as 1996.

Perhaps the most famous example coming from a non rugby player but rather a South African born cricket player, who eventually went on to captain England. The outspoken Kevin Pietersen has claimed that racial quotas forced him into making the biggest decision of his life, to quit his native South Africa and move to England. While very few players are as outspoken as Kevin Petersen the truth is many players have and will make the same decision.


I will state again the aim of this post was not to start a political debate but rather to question the South African Rugby Union’s newly adopted selection policy. It is of my view that the selection policy should be scrapped for the interest of both South African rugby aswell as world rugby. I will leave you with this final question.  If the South African Rugby Union got sanctioned for its selection policy of non black players, surely they should now get sanctioned for their new policy which essentially excludes 50% of white players for selection?

Let us know your opinion on the South African Rugby Union Selection policy by dropping us a comment below.

*The views expressed in this article are purely that of the author.*

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  • Nick

    i Agree totally with your comments and as a South african supported i would not care if our whole team was made up of Black players as long as we were playing exciting and winning rugby, so to reiterate ….This is not a race based argument. but since the Quota system is already in place and has been for a good few years i believe it is no longer the SARFU issue anymore but an IRB issue as they are the ones who have allowed the double standards and should be held accountable for the lack of leadership and breaking of there own rules.

  • greg Halstead

    The point we missing is that sport is played first and foremost for enjoyment. The perks of professional sport has made it possible for sportsmen and woman who love sport to do it as a living for the short time their bodies can cope. The issue now where SARU making a mistake is to create a negative impact on these sportsmen by bring race into it. The best should play at all times no matter the colour of our skin. If they cant put sport first then we should be banned as we have no clue what it actually represents

  • Arno

    If that is so then we should not allow any non white players to go play overseas. They must be forced to stay behind because they are required to fill the quotas. Think Brian Mujati, Geo Aplon, Ashley Johnson, Bryan Habana, Ricky January, Burton Francis, Zane Kirchner, etc just to kick this off.

    • Tim

      You make an interesting point, but I don’t believe SARFU can “force” non white players to stay in the country – its a free world they are allowed to do as they please.

  • Peter

    I agreed with every word said in this article. South Africa deliver players of exceptional talent, black and white, and the most talented do excel, however, you do get the so-called quota players who, without doubt are not up to international standard and by selecting them too early, for the sake of quotas, is an insult. They disappear when the going get touch.

    My son was selected to play Craven Week in 2006 when he was in grade 9. The next year, he was without doubt the best in his position in the province, but not selected. The selected one was a black guy from the same school who played for the 2nd team and did not even bench for the 1st team. This, according to me, is racism like you will never believe. My son went on to play provincial rugby for three years and then quitted to further his studies at university and the black guy disappeared, never to touch a rugby ball again after school.

  • Bertha

    Whilst the article in its essence is correct it does not take into consideration the special circumstances that saru face regarding participation. A tremendous amount of hard work under very difficult circumstances has taken place and continues to take place with developing rugby in black areas. Black players do come through albeit in small numbers and a lot more could be done in this area however it is all very heavily dependant on finance and goodwill. Rural SA is extremely poor therefore bringing rugby into an area that is football orientated needs heavy duty hands on and financed at every corner. The money is simply not available to meet the deadlines of 50/50 quotas. The sorrowful effects of apartheid cannot be undone overnight and I certainly believe that it will take another 15 -20 years before we see any sort of self sustaining numbers in black rugby. I also agree that black players are and will continue to be discriminated against in some form or another due to the legacy and ingrained bad attitudes. This unfortunately will take generations to drain away.

    • Andrew

      But Bertha no matter how long we wait we will never see the black numbers in rugby as they certainly prefer the game of soccer and rightfully so as they are better skilled at this game than we as whites and why you see far less whites playing this game. No money in the world is going to change this.

    • Jy verggeet gerieflikheidshalwe van die 50% wat verhoed word om te speel. Nie reg nei, maak nie saak watter redenasie jy volg nie.

  • Gareth

    It’s utter nonsense-an entire 50 percent is huge. After seeing this post and having been such an avid supporter, I now will adopt new, non sa teams. How many other supporters will throw in the tile?

  • Heinrich

    My vote goes against SARU, I vote to suspend South Africa rugby. Because what is happening now is no different than the team of Naas Botha generation. When they toured NZ they dropped bags of flour on the field. I vote to suspend them. South Africa is a mess, not only our sport but our economy is something to cry about, everything is falling apart because of these rules and requirements by our government. I am South african but don’t support any of it’s teams. If this is what they want, then we want Bafana bafana 50% transformed aswell. What counts for the one must surely count for the other. New Zealand supporter till I die. Cheers

  • Zane

    26 years have gone by….its time, it’s been more than enough time….
    SA rugby has already suffered enough with this policy as before its implementation Springbok were ahead to NZ on wins…I’ve now lost count on how far behind.
    so let’s move ahead before all hope is lost.
    selection by merit only…..any skin colour.

  • Steve

    The article is spot on. What we are seeing racism in reverse and hypocrisy. Countries, governments, organisations and some people will always see racism as it suits them at the time and they will react, or not, as it suits them at the time.I personally do not have any faith in any of those organisations to ever do what is right as I believe they are all a bunch of hypocrites. However, what puzzles me the most is that we, the supporters who pay for tickets and subscribe to TV pay channels to watch the sport are actually funding these organisations, even though we know they are supporting racist policies. The only people who can do anything about it is us, the supporters. Why don’t we boycott the home games, imagine an empty Ellis Park, Newlands or Loftus. Actions by the masses has prevailed in Africa, right or wrong. Why don’t we boycott Zimbabwe for the blatant racist and dictator rule by Mugabe? Why don’t we boycott South African sport that subscribes to racist policies. Well, we won’t, because we foolishly believe in the rules and the rules will take care of these issues. We will continue to write articles like this one and cry foul….and then continue supporting them by paying for tickets….now doesn’t that sound a bit like a bunch of hypocrites!!!!

  • Wayne

    How many white players are there in Bafana Bafana?

  • Gertz

    That goes for cricket as well!!!

  • Henk

    The politicians do not care about Sringbok rugby or any other rugby for that matter. In a show of force they will distroy it.

  • Bob Smith

    Who cares? Yawn!!!

  • Lawrie

    I will be simple, let’s be fair in the redress and apply this policy to all our sports teams not just rugby. Cricket Athletics Soccer Swimming etc etc…

  • Dwayne

    If you keep this all simple. if you are good enough, on merit you will make it if you are black or white. Regardless of politics and selection process, if you really are the best it will eventually show. If RSA are to stay a powerhouse of the code, then its best they realise this and start to realise that this is not a racial situation but a sporting situation.

  • Henry

    Discrimination is discrimination no mater what angle you want to look at it. This so called transformation or redress should happen at a school level only. There after the most talented and dedicated sportsmen should be selected for provincial and national levels. When I grew up (in the eighties/nineties) as a somewhat less privileged white kid my parents couldn’t even afford rugby boots so at that time I wasn’t even allowed to play matches but I still went to practice barefoot. In high school I did play and pretty well too but I also had an issue with provincial selectors who where all clearly biased towards the richer schools and I suspect even paid off by many a rich parent. My buddies and I (from our poor government school had almost no chance of getting selected). So I put to you that the real issue to be addressed, as it was back then, is still today not racial but class discrimination. the Rugby and other sporting unions should go to the poorer schools and help develop the talent there. That’s where you will truly bring transformation to this country’s sporting arena.

  • Michael

    I can understand the author of the articles view, on how racial discrimination is no different pre-aparteid and now again in post – apartheid times. The reason the IRB hasn’t responded to the situation is mostly like that the stand to lose a lot of money from the deal, sports is all about the money for the administrators. They don’t mind you complaining about these issues provided they not losing money.

    The only way to make a change to the current manner in which SARU operates is to boycott rugby and make them hurt where it counts. With your wallet.

  • tawa

    Suspend SA, rules is rules. SARU must just invest more in the grassroots levels, more than enough good black players will eventually come through.

  • Alec Dick

    Look at our Sevens team. There are more than 50% if i am not mistaken. All on merit i believe and everybody support them. If it is forced and they dont win the people will go mad.

  • Jak

    Can you please start a petition?