The South African government has prohibited rugby, athletics and cricket federations from bidding to host international competitions for failing to meet the goals of promoting black players in their national teams.
As announced today by the Minister of Sports, Fikile Mbalula, the measure will be reconsidered next year , when the results of the Barometer of Transformation in sport for the 2016/2017 season are known.
The promotion of black players on national teams in traditionally white sports such as rugby or cricket has been a priority for the South African Government since the fall of the segregationist “apartheid” regime in 1994.
The scarce presence of black players in the rugby team , the Springboks, in the 2015 World Cup – 22 of the 31 selected were white – provoked strong criticism from various social and political sectors.
These voices accused the then coach, Heyneke Meyer, of racism , and the federation of a lack of interest in promoting rugby among the country’s black majority, which accounts for 80 percent of the total population.
Springboks are an important element of the identity of South African whites, particularly the Afrikaner people.
The lower ranks of rugby in South Africa are often dominated by conservative mindsets which some observers believe make access difficult for black players.
The popularity of the Springboks in white South Africa was used by Nelson Mandela to gain the trust of the minority of European origin during the 1995 World Cup in the southern country, which the hosts ended up winning.
Mandela’s attitude sparked an unknown phenomenon of enthusiasm for the Springboks among the black population, hitherto hostile to a team identified with racist domination.
The Springboks – and the South African federations of the rest of sports – suffered during the years of “apartheid” an international boycott that deprived them of participating in international events.