The South African Rugby Union (Saru) has stepped up its transformation drive, announcing compulsory targets for next season's Vodacom Cup competition that will require a minimum of seven black players in each of the country's provincial teams.
The directive, released on Wednesday, also says that at least of those players must be in the starting 15, and at least two of the players must be forwards.
The initiative was taken by the executive council of Saru on Monday and discussed with provincial unions on Tuesday. The numbers were determined in line with Saru's global transformation strategy and after a review of historical levels of black representation in the competition.
'Commitment to transformation'
"This decision to introduce measurable targets underlines Saru's commitment to transformation," Saru president Oregan Hoskins said in a statement.
"The Vodacom Cup is a critical step on the development pathway in professional rugby, but it had moved away from its primary purpose of presenting opportunities for young emerging players, particularly black players.
"All the 14 provinces recognised that fact and that we needed to address it as a strategic objective at our Transformation Indaba last year. That and other decisions were shared with the Department of Sports and Recreation, as well as the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.
"This is rugby's tangible step on delivering on that pledge," he said. "The intended outcome is an increased pool of black talent from which Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby coaches can select and, in due course, more options for the Springbok coach."
Jurie Roux, the CEO of Saru, said that no sanctions had been specified, should a province fail to select the required numbers of black players. He said the question and other operational matters around the policy would be addressed by the Games and Policy committee.
Hoskins said Saru had taken the initiative, rather than wait for other agencies to force action.
'We needed to intervene'
"The mood of the organisation is that we needed to intervene - and this was coming from the provinces as well - to see the graph of black player representation begin to rise," he said.
The Vodacom Cup has been contested on an annual basis since 1998 and is an inter-provincial competition for all 14 South African unions.
The tournament runs from March to April and, since its introduction, has been the competition in which virtually the majority of Springboks have made their senior provincial debut.