Transformation Cloud Hangs Over Boks
By Sandile van Heerden
The year 2003 was one of the most controversial build-ups for the Springboks ahead of a Rugby World Cup campaign. Back then, Rudolph Straeuli was the head coach and South Africa had their worst finish at the quadrennial showpiece – a quarterfinal exit to the All Blacks.
Matters got worse for Straeuli and his staff when details of the infamous Kamp Staaldraad emerged. It was later revealed that players were forced to take part in barbaric team building tasks while cold and naked. Where kamp Staaldraad had been designed to unify the players, it succeeded only in tearing the team apart.
Twelve years later, the team is faced with a different kind of challenge –transformation. Some might say the team is being dragged through the mud, while others believe it is about time SARU was stripped bare on the subject. Either way, we are at a crossroads in South African rugby.
But the transformation cloud notwithstanding, hundreds of fans of different shapes, sizes and races converged on Monte Casino, in Fourways, to send the team off as they left for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. They even got the blessing of Minister of Sports and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, who put aside the transformation talk to wish the team well in his usual entertaining style.
I spoke to some of the players, as they made their way through the fans, and into a building that shielded their bus to the airport, they all echoed the same sentiments. Words like “incredible, unbelievable, fantastic and great,” were used by various members of the squad to describe the scenes of green and gold showing them support one last time before their bid for a third title. It was impressive.
The public left no stone unturned and now it is over to Heyneke Meyer and his merry men. They may have left sunny South Africa for the grey skies of England, but there is another dark cloud still hanging over their heads.
Will the transformation debate tear the team apart or will it unify them?