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The De Allende dummy

One of the anticipated talking points to come from the announcement of Heyneke Meyer's Springbok World Cup squad last week was how many 'players of colour' would be included.


Meyer's squad has been said to be in line with SARU's Strategic Transformation Plan given that there are nine players of colour, including De Allende.

The issue hit the headlines a few weeks ago when his father was quoted as saying that De Allende is white, with his dark complexion a result of his Spanish ancestry.

The debate is not only a sad throwback to a time when racial classification defined life in South Africa, but also essentially meaningless as the reality is that most 'white' families that go back more than a few generations in South Africa are very likely to have some 'non-white' ancestry.

This merely serves to distract from real issues such as the way that players like Elton Jantjies, Rudy Paige and Lionel Mapoe have been treated.

Jantjies has been in the squad the whole year without getting a minute on the pitch, and was overlooked in favour of Morne Steyn who has also not taken the field in a Springbok jersey in 2015.

The two were candidates for the third-choice flyhalf berth, which means that whoever got the nod would likely only get an opportunity in a pool game against a minnow with Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard the two front-runners to feature in the play-offs.


So Steyn might start against the USA or Japan, but will likely only feature off the bench in what will be the last Test rugby of a long career. What possible justification is there for preferring him to Jantjies who is young enough to play two more World Cups and would have benefitted immensely from the experience but has now suffered a setback in his career? 

Mapoe has played three minutes in his Test career, coming off the bench for the conclusion of the defeat to the All Blacks at Ellis Park. 

The emergence of Jesse Kriel at outside centre clearly had a big influence on the fact that he boarded a plane to Japan and not England this week, but the fact that Kriel was given an opportunity ahead of him after he had excelled in the position in Super Rugby for the Lions is surely cause to question Meyer's commitment to transformation.

Paige was the most contentious of all the selections, as he is yet to play a single Test for the Springboks. Meyer is known for his meticulous planning but there was clearly little forethought involved with this decision, and all it has done is pile unnecessary pressure on a talented young player.


Paige was one of the most impressive South African scrumhalves in Super Rugby this season, but by picking him for the World Cup without any gametime at all Meyer has made the focus his race and not his ability.

Transformation will always be a key issue in South African sport, and it is important that the Springbok coach is seen to be making an effort in this regard through his actions and not just his words.

The issue should not be the number of players of colour that are picked or how to classify different players, it should be about giving those players the best opportunity to succeed at international level while moulding a team that all South Africans can identify with and get behind.

The way it has been done seems to lack any real planning and only serves to undermine the players that have been picked, which is a situation without any winners.

By Michael de Vries

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