UP athletes and coaches from some of the sporting codes have expressed their views on how the ban will affect university sportspeople and coaches in the long term.

UP cricket captain Murray Coetzee said that he found Mbalula’s decision “massively demotivating”. He explained that as a “young sportsperson, your goal is to play in front of your friends and family and homeground on a big stage”. This was supported by UP 400 m hurdler Le Roux Hamman, who explained, “Everyone wants medals from South African athletes, and holding an international event in your own country would play a huge role in achieving that. If we want the younger generation to be a part of transformation, then exposing them to a world event in their own country will help them develop a passion for sport, instead of suppressing passion by keeping them from this experience.”

Coetzee indicated that the ban could result in players opting for overseas offers, as previously seen with former SA cricketers Kevin Pietersen and Craig Kieswetter. Coetzee explained that this “will lower the standard of our domestic tournaments, and ultimately the national side”. Coetzee said that he doesn’t think quotas take away from the competiveness of the sport, but rather “goes against what sport should be about – a competition between equals”. He added that he feels that players like Kagisho Rabada play on merit, and that if the players are good enough and the systems are in place to produce them, make it on merit.

UP athletics coach Hennie Kriel explained how transformation could take place realistically by being “a natural process”. He explained that, “There are specific challenges for sports like swimming, where we don’t see many African competitors. This is not a case of not having ability, but a case of not being exposed to opportunity. For sprinting, opportunity is much more readily available. I have no doubt that we have world class athletes [of all colour] in all the sporting codes, but we need to take on the challenge of preparation and development.” Kriel suggests that the governments invest in coaches who can enhance specific movement skills development from the youngest age possible, saying, “The problem is placing an athlete in a sport where they haven’t developed the necessary skill to perform from a young age. If we can do this and be patient, watch to see how transformation will happen in the next 5-10 years.”

Coetzee also highlighted the importance of making cricket readily available throughout the country as a long term solution for transformation, especially in rural areas. “Cricket is an expensive sport, and obviously not everybody has access to the opportunity to get to play and learn it … [Emphasis should] be placed on a youth level to produce a bigger pool of players, rather than playing guys who are out of their depth,” said Coetzee.

Mbalula’s decision has directly affected TuksNetball, who have a number of Protea players within their ranks. Coach and head of programming Jenny van Dyk explained that universities are viewed as a means to develop upcoming talent and, while they can provide physical development, governemnt needs to focus on educational development too as it goes hand-in-hand with the making of an athlete. “Unfortunately we have not bridged the gap for some of the players, who are excellent netball players and come from rural areas but can’t cope with the pressure of a university system and structure. [This results in] losing bursaries and not being able to continue with their studies and getting study debts they need to pay off,” said Van Dyk.

Transformation is implemented at a TuksSport level. Van Dyk noted that TuksNetball is involved in annual school netball clinics that aim to develop skills from a grassroots level. UP netball player Lenize Potgieter elaborated on these efforts, explaining that “talent identification is being done at national netball championships throughout the whole year, where netballers are chosen by our coach and invited to join our High Performance squad to develop their skills and improve their knowledge and movements of the game. They also get time to play against top players at the TuksNetball Club (who are also Proteas) and therefore gain experience on court as well as off court.” Kriel supported this by saying that he has seen transformation at UP “with some of the best younger athletes moving through the ranks. TuksHigh is an opportunity that exposes our younger generation to the possibility of pursuing a professional sporting career.” He highlighted Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai as examples.

 

Image: Shen Scott

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