It is often stated that the problem with South African rugby is the racial Quota System. Rugby Union worldwide is struggling, and no more than in South Africa, but it’s a bit disingenuous to blame it all on the Quota System.
A New Zealander commentating on racial issues on South Africa is pretty tricky, but it is an opportunity to view things from the outside. There is no country on this planet where race over-rides everything.
The system has a lot of logic about it, in a nation always defined by special rules for special races, there is a need to do something about making sure all South Africans get an opportunity in the 21st century. Sport was as much as anything a way for the white ruling classes imposing their view of who was boss. This is about making sports organisations ensure they embrace the new multi-racial South Africa.
And it seems to be working OK in cricket
In this current test side there are
- 2 Blacks
- 2 Colourds
- 2 Asians
- 2 Whites of English descent
- 3 Afrikaners
Note these terms, that now seem so archaic, were written into South African legislation until the 1990s.
What is often considered to be the best South African side of all time was the one that whitewashed Australia in 1970. That side of Richards, Barlow, the Proctors, Goddard, Irvine and Pollock was quite something. And all of whom were white, and of English descent.
The fact that team was captained by Ali Bacher; son of Lithuanian-Jewish parents only reinforced how strange things were. Bacher would later do a lot of good work in overseeing the transition process.
Strangely, the New South Africa seems to have opened it up for people of Afrikaans background. The ultimate oppressors, previously constrained by an Anglo centric Old Boys’ system, are now thriving under a more egalitarian legislation.
The player with the most question marks over his head in the emphatically victorious side from Perth is Stephen Cook, who happens to be a white of English descent. In Kagiso Rabada they have their most promising player in a generation, and hopefully a role-model for millions.
This side from Perth really was the much vaunted Rainbow Nation. Rabada’s bowling. The Bavada run-out and first innings fifty, Elgar’s century, Duminy’s century, Philander’s first innings wickets and second innings runs.
The pin-up boy for Asian input was Amla, who failed twice. Expect that to be addressed in Hobart.
The system is not perfect; no system is South Africa ever has been. But the Proteas are showing what the ultimate objective is all about.