The Springboks target rise in quota of black players, SA Rugby ready bid for 2023, Du Preez sets retirement date and Lambie and Pollards shows form from the tee

Springboks to be 50 per cent black by 2019

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has set a target of 50 per cent black player representivity in the Springbok team by 2019. SARU chief executive Jurie Roux made the announcement at the unveiling of the body’s Strategic Transformation Plan (STP), which has been two years in the making, in late February. The STP is the third incarnation of the Transformation document from SARU since the turn of the century.

In 2001 SARU released ‘Vision 2003’. It was published to provide a road map to take the organisation into the 21st century and was based on four imperatives –

Transformation, growth, winning and financial sustainability. While certain aspects of “Vision 2003” were followed through transformation was still a thorny issue. The document was quietly scrapped four years after its launch.

In 2006 the verbose and academically inaccessible “Transformation Charter”, penned by Dr Willie Basson, replaced “Vision 2003.” In a presentation of the draft Transformation Charter to parliament in 2005, SARU’s document declared: “This was the last chance for rugby to reform”. The Charter died a quiet death on the desks of SARU officials and nearly 10 years later there is another plan. Admittedly it is one that appears to be centred in reality with assessments, measurements and targets, rather than flowery prose.

Du Preez to retire next January

Decorated Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez is set to retire next January, which will come at the end of a compressed Japanese season. Du Preez currently plays for Suntory Sun Goliath in the Japanese league.

He returned to South Africa in early March and is hoping to form part of the Springboks’ World Cup squad and suggested he would play no rugby between now and July 11 when the Boks take on a World XV in Cape Town.

Fourie du Preez

Talisman: Fourie du Preez plans to hang up his boots in January 2016 (Pic Inpho)

“There are some insurance issues about playing for another club when you’re under contract in Japan but Suntory are okay with me playing if I want to,” Du Preez said.

“I had some discussions with the Bulls last October about the possibility of playing Super Rugby and I was also approached by a couple of other unions about playing for them this year.

“But I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to do that, although things could change in the coming months. There is still such a thing a loyalty in rugby, so I would struggle to play for another union other than the Bulls.”

SA to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup

South Africa will throw its hat in the ring to host Rugby World Cup 2023 after presenting losing bids for the 2015 and 2019 tournaments.

SARU confirmed its interest but admitted that it would still need to receive the approval SASCOC – SA’s national Olympic Committee – and support of national government.

Francois Pienaar

Iconic moment: Francois Pienaar holds aloft the 1995 RWC, now SARU are readying a bid for 2023 (Pic Inpho)

To host the event World Rugby require massive guarantees – £96m in the case of Japan for 2019 – and the only way SARU could afford that would be from public funding.

“By the time the tournament comes round it will be 28 years since Nelson Mandela handed the trophy to Francois Pienaar and I believe that South Africa is hungry to once again host rugby’s greatest occasion,” SARU CEO Jurie Roux said.

“The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup were magnificent occasions for our nation and for the respective sports and the prospect of being able to repeat those unforgettable occasions is very exciting.”

Stormers set early Super Rugby pace

They were written off before the start of the season because of the callowness of the their squad in key positions, but the Stormers have surprised supporters and detractors alike by winning their opening four Super Rugby games.

After securing a 29-13 round four win at Newlands over the Sharks in a thunderous local derby that featured 21 Springboks, the Cape side moved to top of the standings with 16 points.

Despite losing Jean de Villiers for the entire season, and missing the likes of lock Eben Etzebeth and flank Schalk Burger for the opening three rounds the Stormers beat both the Bulls and the Lions on the Highveld and the Auckland Blues in Cape Town.

Victory over the Sharks stretched their impressive record at Newlands to 23 wins out of 27 games since 2012.

SA kickers on song in Super Rugby

Springbok fly-halves Pat Lambie and Handré Pollard have been in immaculate all-round form during the opening month of Super Rugby, especially from the kicking tee.

Pat Lambie

In-form: Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard are in fine-fettle with the boot (Pic Inpho)

Pollard, who topped the points scoring charts after four rounds with 72 points from two tries, 15 penalties, seven conversions and one drop-goal, has only missed four kicks at goal all season. In the past two weeks he’s kicked 15 out of 15.

Lambie has accumulated 71 points from two tries, eight conversions and 15 penalties. He has landed 23 of 27 kicks at goal including 12 out of 12 in the past two weeks.