The South African Rugby Football Union said it plans to introduce the sport at 1,000 junior schools over the next three years in an effort to produce more top black players.
“For us, it’s about overcoming a legacy of apartheid, which saw the majority of our people not being exposed to the game of rugby,” Oregan Hoskins, the union’s president, told lawmakers in Cape Town today. “We are starting at the bottom of the pyramid and working our way up. We see that as the only way to get true transformation.”
While the governing body has spent more than 500 million rand ($61 million) on development and transformation programs since 1992, the upper echelons of the sport have remained dominated by whites since the end of white segregationist rule 18 years ago. Just 51 black players have been selected to play for the Springboks.
More black players would increase options for the selectors of the national team, which trails New Zealand’s All Blacks and Australia’s Wallabies in world rankings. About 79 percent of South Africa’s 50.6 million people are black, 9 percent are white and the balance is of mixed race or of Indian or Asian descent, according to the government statistics agency.
South African rugby has undergone a major transformation at school and club level, with black players accounting for 57 percent of the 322,689 participants in the under-11 to under-19 leagues, SARFU said in a written presentation. High schools play a key role in nurturing rugby talent, with half of all Springboks emanating from just 39 schools, it said.
The union intends to spend more than 72 million rand on rugby development this year, including 10.1 million rand on identifying and developing elite players, and 6.8 million rand on coaching development. It plans to extend its school development program to more than 400 high schools between 2016 and 2019.
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