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South African trade union launches explosive attack on 'racist' coach Heyneke Meyer

They claim “certain positions are still maintained for the white players”

Meyer has been called a
Meyer has been called a "racist" by the South African union.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

A LEADING SOUTH African trade union has called for Springboks head coach Heyneke Meyer to be fired, claiming that he is continually favouring white players in his team selections.

Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) say that five black rugby players have approached them for support in the matter, and that two white South African internationals have also backed them privately.

In a lengthy statement released today, the union demanded the Meyer be replaced as head coach for his team selections.

In February, the South African Union said that each matchday 23 would contain seven non-white players in the build up to the Rugby World Cup, but that guideline – which is not an official quota – was not met in recent games, with three non-white starting players and three substitutes selected in the defeat to Australia.

“Cosatu calls on the Minister and the leadership of Rugby to stop pandering to this racist white interest represented and led by the Coach. We want the Coach removed and a more representative team selected that represents all the people of South Africa.  We need to get the nation behind the team and we certainly have a difficulty supporting a white team, when there are so many black players who are the form players in so many positions, excluded.”

The trade union also claim that Meyer is continually picking white players to play out of position in test matches, rather than select in-form black players.

“The coach played many of the white players out of their positions as he put them into specialist positions, where clearly there were black players available. When he does bring in a few black players, the quality of play changed; but too little too late. This adds insult to injury as the coach ignores the form players of the year as well as the form teams of the year in favour of his personal preferences.”

In the explosive statement, the trade union also claimed that black players aren’t trusted to play in certain positions, with black players approaching them to raise their concern.

Tendai Mtawarira Tendai Mtawarira was one of just three non-white players to start against Argentina last Saturday. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The return of captain Jean de Villiers from his cruciate ligament injury has also been criticised, with the statement saying that any other player would have to earn his place back in the side.

“There is a practice of reverse affirmative action in Rugby, where certain positions are still maintained for the white players. This maintenance and control of the white establishment is reflected in who gets the most lucrative contracts and who gets to continue on in the sport in leadership and administrative positions. Black Players have come to Cosatu to take up these issues for them, as they are often victimised when they raise it with the Rugby association.
“The Rugby establishment defends the privileged position of white players and the Captain Jean De Villiers is an example of this. Any other player anywhere else in the world would have to play himself back into the team after such a long absence, yet he gets to just walk back into the team, when he is clearly not the form player.”

The statement was released after chairperson of the Western Cape branch of the union Motlatsi Tsubane said that five black players had raised their concern, and that a further two white players “put their weight behind the matter”.

“Unfortunately for obvious reasons we are not in a position to give names because, at the end of the day, we still have to sit down and engage with them so they can give a clear overview of what is happening,” Tsubane said.

South African face Argentina this Saturday in their final game before the Rugby World Cup, a week after suffering their first ever test defeat to the Pumas in Durban.

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Neil Treacy

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