Sharks pick nine black starters for South African Super Rugby

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Sharks have chosen nine black starters for a South African Super Rugby Unlocked match Friday, a week after national rugby boss Mark Alexander slammed teams for being "too white".

Apart from the nine who will begin the match, the Durban franchise included four black players among the eight replacements for a match against the Griquas in Kimberley.

While SA Rugby have not set racial quotas for domestic matches, Alexander was furious when the Pumas from Mbombela chose only two black starters in a recent Super Rugby match.

Victorious South Africa had six black players in the run-on team for the Rugby World Cup final against England in Japan last November, a figure that would have been higher but for an injury to Trevor Nyakane.

"The World Cup success is not a get out of the jail free card for those who oppose (racial) transformation. It is the opposite -- proof that there is no excuse for under-performance," he said.

"These are unprecedented times, but this does not mean that our transformation goals can be restricted."

South African rugby has a history of racial segregation with black, mixed race and white competitions for almost a century.

Springbok selectors chose only white players for 90 years before back Errol Tobias was picked for a Test against Ireland in 1981.

Even after the white minority government was swept from power in 1994 elections, progress toward a racially mixed national rugby team has been painstakingly slow.

The 1995 World Cup-winning side was white except for Chester Williams and only two black players, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, were in the 2007 team that became world champions.

Only when national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus doubled up as Springboks coach in 2018 was there significant racial transformation progress, culminating in the World Cup triumph the following year.