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“Even The Quota Players Did Well…”

EVEN THE QUOTA PLAYERS DID WELL…” – This was a post on my Facebook timeline in response to a photo I shared at a recent Springbok game.

Reading this comment would give one the impression that the ‘quota players’ were actually handicaps to the Bok team. Not so when you consider the recent Bok games against France, where I did not see any so called ‘quota players’. What I saw was the best players available that were wearing the green and gold. I know that the Facebook comment was referring to the players of colour whom despite their sterling individual performances, the critics have chosen to praise the Boks but remain silent to single out specific praise for them. These were the same critics that criticised the players of colour (and the coach) being selected – seeing them as the sole reason behind the Boks dismal 2016 showing. Could our recent success be due to the ‘non-quota’ players having had to step up in order to overcome the ‘quota handicap’? Let’s be honest, the selection from last year compared to this year of the so-called ‘quota players’ has not varied much – so wherein lies the difference? There are currently actually no ‘quota players’ but the best players for their respective positions playing.

Irrespective of the sport, level of competition or where in the world it is. When a team is selected, the selection will never meet with everyone’s approval or preference. However, in South Africa the crutch that we call ‘quota’ is often pulled out as an excuse for when we perform poorly or come up against quality opposition. Quite frankly this needs to stop!

Just a short while back the Proteas were the darlings of the South African sports public. However, at present, things seem to have changed, with fans quick to turn on them and brandish the labels, “chokers, jokers etc.” Could it be that the Proteas gave their best but came up against a better team? Most of what I have read and heard was about how bad the Proteas were and not much said about the fact that their opposition was simply the better team on the day. Amongst the office and pub banter there will be hushed comments mentioning that the reason for the Proteas’ poor performance was, “quota broer!”

We will never win every game that we play as the success of teams often move in cycles, true fans know this and stay behind their teams irrespective of the results. Yes, we are 23-years into our democracy and it would seem as if this was enough time to get things right in order to level the playing fields. However, the reality we must grasp is that like with building Rome, a little more time and patience is needed. As a life coach and someone that works with athletes and teams at an elite level, it is evident that good performance stems from confidence. When a player is given the backing and support from his coaches and teammates, his confidence grows and hence his and the team’s performance improve. As supporters, we need to curb our criticism and be patient with our teams to allow them time to gel. Building a team requires patience! Right now, we are still in this building phase. The Boks whitewashing France is a great start but I am under no illusions, as it is still early days, knowing that we still have to measure ourselves against the best – the All Blacks.

Initially it was needed by Government to push for quotas in South African sport in order to bring to light the talent that we see today that may not have surfaced otherwise. Some purists will insist that quotas contradict the core principle of professional sport, where an athlete needs be chosen on merit alone. Yes, I agree and using the purist assessment, who of the players of colour in the current Bok team are not there on merit? Based on recent performances it is evident that when given equal opportunities, the ‘quota players’ have the quality and necessary skill to play at the elite level. Supporters on both sides of this ‘quota’ divide feel justified in their respective stances, but for me the issue at hand is really the fickleness of the South African sports fan.

The sad reality that we face in South Africa is that the skin colour of a player will more often be focussed on – either when we win or lose! We need to move away from our personal biases and get behind our national teams irrespective of who is selected (or not) or this dismal reality will prevail – and we need to drop the quota label!

Now if we consider the performance of the South African “A” team against the French Barbarians then you cannot ignore the standout performances from Warrick Gelant whom, if he carries on with his current Super Rugby form, I think has done enough to be considered for the Bok set up at full back.

Players that also shone and are knocking on the Bok selector’s door were Makazole Mapimpi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Uzair Cassiem, Ox Nche. If they do make the Bok fold, can we label them as quota players when their form has been good?

If we look back at the recent French series, could it just be that SARU is finally on the right track and have actually selected the best of what we currently have to offer in regards to players and coaching staff – irrespective of race? They have also brought in a mix of good coaches to utilise the best brains in the business – quota or not!  We cannot overlook the introduction of Brendan Venter into the mix as also being a positive factor to the Bok performance. Now we also have the reintroduction of Rassie Erasmus whom as we know has had a great impact on Munster Rugby in Ireland and is the PRO12 coach of the year.

In conclusion can I be so bold and conclude that we as the public need to drop the ‘quota’ label when we refer to players of colour altogether? Based on performance, they meet the basis of selection on merit and nothing else!

* This article was supplied by Myan Subrayan is a writer, speaker and life coach to businesses and sports teams – speaking regularly there and to schools and churches. Since 2012 he resides in Pretoria and has written books for Springboks: Pierre Spies & Jannie de Beer, Bafana Bafana’s: Delron Buckley, All Black winger: Inga Tuigamala and Olympic Gold medallist, Chad Le Clos. He has worked closely with professional rugby teams as the Emirates Lions and Southern Kings, Warriors Cricket, Amazulu & AmaTuks football teams and various Olympic athletes. For more info on Myan, his work and his books you can visit www.myansubrayan.co.za or e-mail info@hope2overcome.org. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter @myansubrayan

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