CAPE TOWN/South Africa: Together with their partner Société Générale, Rugby Africa’s official bank, and with the support of World Rugby, Rugby Africa will organise the first qualifiers for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Africa, the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup, at the Bosman stadium in Johannesburg, starting on August 9th, National Women’s Day in South Africa, and finishing on August 17th, 2019.
Scheduled to appear are four teams competing to win their place to play in New Zealand including South Africa, host country of the tournament, Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar. Considering that there isn’t yet an established African ranking for women’s fifteen-a-side rugby, the four fifteens teams were chosen on the basis of the level and frequency of play of the female players. Each team will play 3 matches on three different days and a points classification will be established. The winner of the tournament will qualify directly for the World Cup whilst the second best team will play a match against a selected team from South America and join the global repechage tournament if victorious.
For Katie Sadleir, General Manager for Women’s Rugby at World Rugby, this new event represents an opportunity not to be missed: “The development of women in rugby is the greatest opportunity for our sport over the next decade. This is an essential part of World Rugby’s vision of a ‘A sport for all, true to its values’ and is aligned with its mission to grow the global family … Women’s rugby is experiencing unprecedented growth and participation levels are at an all-time high. Women’s rugby in Africa is leading the way in terms of the number of women players registered worldwide ”
This event is an opportunity to legitimise the position of women’s rugby in Africa. Indeed, the President of Rugby Africa, Khaled Babbou views the advancement of Rugby Africa on the rugby world scene as a priority objective of this competition: “Organising qualifiers for the World Cup provides, above all, a springboard for the players and a chance for teams to reach the highest level in the sport. Development of the practice of our sport is at the heart of our concerns, and women’s rugby is a major strategic priority.”
“The Women’s Cup will serve a huge boost for women’s rugby in Africa and South Africa, and we are delighted that we will host this fantastic event,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “It is very important in the sense that it will offer some of the top national teams in Africa an opportunity to measure themselves against one another, and the fact that it will double up as the African qualifier for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand makes it even more significant. Women’s rugby is still developing in Africa, and the only way to raise the bar is by facing more international competition, and there is no better place to start than with our neighbouring countries. We look forward to welcoming our neighbours to Johannesburg for what will be a fantastic showcase of African women’s rugby.”
Following the conference on the development of women’s rugby in Africa, held in Gaborone in May 2018, the entire management team of Rugby Africa and its federations took on the responsibility to write a strategic plan, adapted to the geographical, economic and cultural realities of the African continent, to promote the practice of rugby among women.
This strategic plan focuses on the development, as well as the performance and visibility, of women’s rugby on the continent. The heart of the discussions is how to develop women’s rugby and increase of the number of African female players but we also need to examine the role of women more generally in our sport, from the team technical support staff to the management in the African rugby governing structures. It must be acknowledged that Africa lags behind other parts of the world in terms of women’s rugby since, it has sent no representative team to the previous Women’s Rugby Fifteens World Cup; this will be rectified in August in Johannesburg.