Khanyiso Tshwaku, News24, June 29, 2023
The Democratic Alliance has weighed in on the controversial demotion of Western Province’s Under-16 team at the Grant Khomo Rugby Week in Paarl, with the party set to report the matter to both World Rugby and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
Western Province’s Under-16 team, one of two sides representing the province at Hoër Landbouskool Boland in Paarl, was reported for playing fewer players of colour than stipulated by SA Rugby for provincial youth rugby weeks in their game against the Bulls on Tuesday.
As a result, according to a Netwerk24 report, Western Province were demoted from playing in Thursday’s ‘final’ against Free State because they did not meet the requirement of selecting at least 11 players of colour in their match-day 23.
Their place in the main game was handed to the Bulls, who went on to beat Free State 20-12 in muddy conditions at the agricultural school’s Paardeberg Field just north of Paarl.
Unbeaten throughout the tournament, Western Province had to settle for third place after defeating the Golden Lions 10-5.
They had better of the Bulls (25-18) on Tuesday and Boland (41-12) on Monday.
It is understood that two players of colour on the Western Province team were injured, which forced their replacement by two white centres called up from the Western Province XV team, essentially their “B-team”, who are also competing at the Grant Khomo Week.
The Western Province XV also went unbeaten after wins against the Free State XV (50-3), the Pumas (38-7) and the Sharks (25-8).
DA spokesperson in sports, arts and culture, Tsepo Mhlongo, said the party not only condemned what they deemed to be “unjust discrimination”, but also interference by the ruling African National Congress in grassroots rugby.
“The focus of a child’s school sporting experience should revolve around enjoyment, skill development and building relationships with teammates, rather than being exposed to discrimination and forced racial quotas,” Mhlongo said in a statement.
“Additionally, enforcing racial quotas undermines fair and competitive play, potentially leading to instances of bullying and the unjust perception that certain players are not selected based on merit.
“As per World Rugby’s bylaws and regulations, rugby is meant to be accessible to all individuals, with no tolerance for racism or any form of discrimination within the sport.
“Although this incident occurred at a school-level event, South Africa, as a member of World Rugby, should adhere to the international body’s rules and regulations governing rugby at all levels.
“Therefore, in addition to reporting this matter and SA Rugby’s quota regulations to the Human Rights Commission, the DA will also write to World Rugby to bring attention to the ANC Government’s interference in grassroots rugby.”