Address to the Butityi Nkonki's School Rugby Tournament by the UDM President in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape (17 October 2008)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a son of the Eastern Cape, and a rugby player in my younger days, I take great pride in witnessing what all of you have achieved here. Allow me to single out Mr Nkonki; you are a leader and a hero who is showing everybody who is always talking about the best interest of rugby, how indeed South African rugby can be taken forward.

I salute you, sir, for your vision and your generosity. I am sure that your example has already imparted on these players and their families a vital lesson about democracy; namely, that the quality of our freedom is determined by the willingness of each of us to participate and help build a better future.

This tournament was started in April with 145 players and a sponsorship of R 300 000. 00. It has now grown to the extent that the Player of the Tournament will win the opportunity to watch the Springboks against England in London, at Twickenham later this year, all expenses paid.

Mr Nkonki should be thanked for being a catalyst. This is the type of development and investment in the grassroots that South African rugby authorities and politicians need to focus on. Instead of grandstanding in boardrooms and conferences that are far removed from these sport fields, where the stars of tomorrow are learning the game.

The South African Government, especially the Department of Sport, has failed dismally at delivering sports development, especially when it comes to facilities and infrastructure in the townships and rural areas.

These same people will talk loudly about 'transformation' but never do anything. Transformation is about creating opportunities. Where is the transformation blue print, and where in the development strategy? Sporting codes need to be focusing on developing and nurturing talent throughout the country. Instead the current approach is haphazard and piecemeal.

Therefore many communities have no facilities, whilst the few existing facilities stand empty and are vandalised because there is no real development effort underway to nurture the players that could use those facilities.

The Department of Sport must be revamped in its entirety.

We also need better coordination between sports events, especially international ones, and the Tourism authorities. It seems to me that there isn't a proper realisation of the tourism potential of hosting sports tournaments.

We must learn from the lesson that Nelson Mandela taught us 13 years ago, that we should use sport to unite. There is a bad habit developing among the authorities of always referring to race when we discuss taking forward sport, especially rugby. But when you ask them on the strategies and the budgets to affect sport transformation, they just poke their noses and can't provide a straight answer.

Thank God for people like Mr Nkonki for showing leadership.

I believe that the Department of Sport should be focussing on establishing sport academies in every province and region. These must be staffed by teachers who are empowered and trained to be coaches. We also need to reintroduce the culture of school rugby tournaments. As long as we have sleepy Ministers, DGs and lazy MPs we will fail to take these necessary steps to develop rugby and open it up for every child with the talent and determination to one day represent his country on the world stage.

Look at this fracas over the Springbok emblem. It is wasted energy; how I wish we could have been focussing so much intensity and effort on opening sport facilities in the townships and rural areas.

This is becoming a norm of the present government to target successful institutions by denigrating them instead of focusing on failing institutions. A good example is their recent targeting of the Scorpions, a successful unit in combating crime in this country. Now they are targeting the Springboks, whereas one would have expected them to focus their attention on why South Africa failed in Beijing recently.

In conclusion I'd like to praise former national coach Jake White, and the current coach Pieter De Villiers for giving players chances and creating the space for a host of rugby heroes to burst onto the international scene. They have opened the doors for young talent to represent their nation and in the process they are inspiring the next generation of Brian Habanas and Schalk Burgers. With coaches like that at national level and people like Mr Nkonki at local level, there is reason to believe that South Africa can continue to dominate the world rugby stage.

I thank you.

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