Rugby, cricket and football: SA’s former stars upbeat about the future
Former Bok Adriaan Strauss, spinner Paul Adams and Bafana’s Aaron Mokoena and Matthew Booth believe their codes are doing well
Some stars of the past are optimistic about the future of SA’s big three sports — rugby, cricket and football.
Former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss, spin wizard Paul Adams and Bafana Bafana stalwarts Aaron Mokoena and Matthew Booth, who all took part at the Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational at the Lost City course last weekend, are upbeat about their codes.
The key for rugby, said Strauss, was maintaining consistency to give the Boks the best chance of winning an unprecedented third straight World Cup.
“I’m not only hopeful, but I think Springbok rugby is in a very good place, and it’s definitely going to go well in the next couple of years.
“If they can retain the depth and build on what they have, it will be a great four years to come. They’ve got a couple of youngsters in the squad, and they’ve balanced that well with a lot of experience in the team.”
The core of the coaching staff was also likely to stick around, Strauss pointed out.
Adams was confident there was plenty for the Proteas to build on before their home World Cup in 2027.
“You can plot ahead on how you’re going to transition certain players with certain skills within the time. And you can relook at your group of young players that are coming through.”
Mokoena now works at the SA Football Association, which he added was on the right path. “The fact that I played in two World Cups, I played in the Olympics, I played in four Africa Cup of Nations, for me, I think there’s room for improvement.”
Bafana Bafana haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 2002, having secured entry to 2010 as the host nation.
“We actually didn’t invest a lot, a lot of energy and obviously resources and funding in development structures, so that’s where we have missed it.”
But Mokoena added that since joining the national association he had seen improvement, with the establishment of a national under-15 squad and academy as well as a scouting department.
“Those are changes that needed to be done for the best of SA football moving forward.”
Matthew Booth, who captained the national under-23 team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics where they beat Brazil, was the most critical of the four, saying squad systems and development had been lacking in recent years.
“At the moment we’ve actually got quite a nice [Bafana] squad. But the fringe players and anyone that you want to bring in, you can quickly see there’s not actually a lot of depth.
“If we can get our grassroots football right and our school football as well, we’re going to start to maximise our pool of talent and we’ll become stronger.
“I firmly believe we should be in the top three in Africa and top 30 in the world.
“That’s our potential and I can see our potential because I interact with grassroots — amateur football, school football.”
Booth pointed out that the system which helped shape him and other players of his era such as Quinton Fortune and Benni McCarthy ended more than two decades ago.
“Credit to Safa [at the time] for the under-23 programme. They signed off with Sasol to allow them and Worldwide Sports to drive the programme. So Safa oversaw it, but they let the private sector drive it.
“And so, we were together for more than six years. If you go back three years earlier, we were also the first SA team to qualify for an intercontinental tournament. We came second in the Under-20 Afcon in Morocco in 1997. And then we qualified for the Under-20 World Cup in 1997 in Malaysia. And then the Olympics.
“So we were a squad of firsts,” Booth said.
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