(Queenstown) – There is still life left in Eastern Cape rugby, according to former Springboks Kaya Malotana and Gcobani Bobo who visited Queenstown recently.
With EP and Border rugby in disarray because of maladministration, the duo have taken it upon themselves to give back to their province of origin and help resurrect a sport that has plenty of history in the region.
The Eastern Cape’s rugby woes are epitomised by the stop-start affair of the Southern Kings and the uncertainty of their second coming in Super Rugby.
Surrounded by some of the best government schools in the country, who are often the feeder institutions to many Super Rugby franchises, Bobo is adamant that both EP and Border should be the pride of South African rugby.
“Truth be told, the cream of the crop of professional rugby players come from this region and many of them have gone on to have stellar careers for their franchises in Super Rugby and for the Springboks,” he said.
“My dream is to see kids from the privileged schools like Queen’s College, Dale College, Selborne College and Grey High School stay and help rebuild Border and Eastern Province rugby.
“Yes, they want to go to more established franchises in order to better their opportunities, but they can do that by staying here, if the structures are right.”
Bobo and Malotana recently took part in a ground-breaking initiative for the Queen’s College Community Outreach Programme. The Queenstown-based school adopted five primary schools from the township of Mlungisi.
“We need to start from the bottom and rebuild this province. We know the potential that lies within this province, but it needs some political will, dedication from all parties concerned, and some giving back from former players who have their roots firmly planted here,” said Malotana who was the first black African Bok player post isolation.
Malotana, who attended Queen’s College and was the first black player to play for their first team, says the time for apportioning blame to administrators is over and it’s up to former players from the region to help resuscitate rugby in the rural areas.
“They call this the home of black rugby, but none of the players from the rural areas can really say that rugby is their career,” he said. “These guys play the game for the love of it, but how can we expect them to go further if they are not supported from a young age and given the same opportunities as those guys who come from a better schooling system?”
“I’m ready to give of myself to making sure that we realise the dream we have always had for the province, and for Border rugby, which enjoys a large population of black players. If change is to happen, it must start with me and that is why I have taken the opportunity to involve myself as a mentor and a coach in the area.”
Bobo, who finished his schooling at Rondebosch Boys’ after studying at Dale College, says the most important thing about such initiatives is to ensure that they develop human capital through rugby and that will make for better players for the Boks.
“Enough has been said, but nothing really has been done. Before we produce a rugby player we need to produce a human being and that is my primary aim,” he added. “After the human being a rugby player will be born, and I know that there are a lot of Springboks that are here in Queenstown, King William’s Town, East London, the former Transkei and all the areas in and around Port Elizabeth.
“This won’t happen overnight, but we need to start somewhere or Border and Eastern Province rugby will certainly die.”