Should rugby utilise foreign players?

The Vultures have been unimpressive in recent times
The Vultures have been unimpressive in recent times

Local rugby continues to record dismal results on the international front. But there might be a solution not far away from the Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) doorstep, argues Staff Writer, CALISTUS KOLANTSHO

Botswana rugby has failed to hit the expected heights, with morale sapping losses littered across international competitions.

But faced with the dire situation, rugby can turn to Option B in its effort to breathe life into The Vultures, the country’s national team.

There is a significant population of foreign players, plying their trade in the local league. With the recent scrapping of 100percent local representation, such players might be what the doctor ordered for local rugby. The topic solicits diverging opinions, with critics, arguing, it might stifle the development of citizens, while some feel their involvement can elevate the game, and assist local players reach new levels.

Some countries have been utilising the system to nationalize talent over three years, with World Rugby (WR) setting new regulations in 2017, which, from 2020, requires players to have five years of consecutive residency or ten years of cumulative residency. Rugby powerhouses around the world such as Ireland, South Africa, England, Wales and France allow foreigners to play for national teams. Back home, Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) Super League has a significant number of foreigners, particularly from neighbouring Zimbabwe. Some of the players that come to mind are James Vambe, Emmanuel Zangari, Godknows Mavara  and Russel Dinha.The players are a force to reckon with and their clubs challenge for the league title every season. In South African rugby, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira is a Zimbabwean who has made an immense contribution to the national team’s Springboks. In the end it is rugby that benefits.

The challenge that BRU might face is that some locals are against foreign players playing in the domestic league and it might face more resistance in the national team.

Canon Jaguars manager, Feddy Mutenheri said selection into the national team should be a merit based affair. “I am a fan of giving the local talent a chance, but there has to be

balance that comes through infusing raw talent and experience that you get from other places. Of course, there has to be a code or rules governing such a consideration,” he said. Mutenheri said BRU could learn how such arrangement is done. He said the Union has people with vast and varied backgrounds.

“I believe guided by the rules and regulations and driven by the love to see their country prosper in rugby, (they) can always make sound decisions for the betterment of the game,” he said. Jwaneng rugby club coach, Mathews Porogo said for the Sevens rugby team, it should be 100 percent locals but for the 15s foreign players who have played in the local league for three seasons, should be eligible for selection.

BRU vice president-technical, Tosca Segaise said it is a complex issue that needs cool heads. “Foreigners are not allowed to play for national teams and it is a policy implemented by all codes. It is something that has financial implications and it has its performance merits,” Segaise said.

He argued that in other countries the issue has divided nations. However, Segaise said it was a matter worth pursuing. Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) acting chief executive officer, Bobby Gaseitsiwe said there is nothing that stops foreigners

from playing for the national teams.

“Non citizen can play for national teams as long as it confines with international bodies like World Rugby. As long as they are residents here,” he said.

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