Down With SA Rugby’s Gender Discrimination And Disregard For Women’s Rugby By Cheryl Roberts

22 Sep

Rugby in South Africa is a very rich sport. It is a bastion for male hegemony and male control of sport. Rugby is heavily corporate-backed and a moneyed sport. And rugby in SA is a sport that gives crumbs to women’s rugby and advances boys and men in rugby while girl rugby enthusiasts and women rugby players are treated with little respect and recognition.

Last weekend, the finals of SA Rugby’s prestige domestic competition for senior women was held in East London, featuring teams from four rugby playing regions and two finals in the A and B section. It was shocking to see not one senior SA Rugby exco member or Board official at this event, featuring women rugby finals. This is not the first time that a women’s rugby event has been disregarded or ignored by SA Rugby officials, It happens most, if not all the time.

Over the past decade, I have been to several women’s rugby events throughout South Africa and I haven’t seen SA Rugby officials at these events. Yes, there are employees like the managers from head and provincial offices, but nowhere are the senior officials when women’s rugby is played.

Why does SA Rugby disregard women’s rugby events? They sure don’t do this for men’s rugby! No ways! Officials are present at provincial, national and international matches of men’s rugby where they have catering and free bar services. It’s not only the national rugby officials who are absent from women’s rugby events. It’s the provincial rugby officials, too. You just don’t see them at provincial women’s rugby events. But the staff and managers are out there on the field of play when women’s rugby is going down.

The non-presence of SA Rugby officials at a women’s rugby final isn’t their only indication of gender disrespect. SA Rugby didn’t even finance the 2017 women’s final! The host of the final, Border Rugby, one of the poorer rugby unions in SA, had to finance the event. It was a no frills, low-cost event featuring, as I stated earlier, four women’s rugby teams.

But that’s not all! SA Rugby has a budget for women’s rugby. But its a very low-budget; nothing like the money allocated for boys and men’s rugby. The SA senior women’s  interprovincial plays only one round of fixtures and then the top two teams after that one round, contest the final in an A section and B section competition. How must players improve and develop and challenge their rugby prowess against other teams with just one round of play? The interprovincial kicks off in late July and ends in mid-September. What must the women rugby players do for the rest of the year?

Some of SA Rugby’s provinces like Western Province and Border are sincerely building girls and women’s rugby. Much of the other provinces couldn’t be bothered too much about this gender’s development in rugby; giving the girls and women in rugby little attention and resources.

About two years ago, SA Rugby took a decision to place their own moratorium on international women’s play involving South Africa, with the decision to concentrate on grassroots and girls in rugby. Many talented women rugby players just like that had their international ambitions trampled. The Springbok women weren’t faring well at international level and needed to build skills at youth level to groom the future senior players. But how do you want the players to improve with so little domestic and international competition? SA Rugby concentrates much on boys in rugby than the women in rugby. Yes, there are much more boys and men playing rugby but girls and women’s interest in rugby in growing around the world and in South Africa.

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It’s about the budget allocated for women’s rugby in South Africa. Much more money needs to be invested in girls and women’s rugby. SA Rugby says ‘they don’t have money’. What utter bullshit! Ofcourse they have money. They just choose to spend it on other activities and the men in rugby than investing in the women. Senior officials, Board members and exo members of SA Rugby are looked after nicely with financial remunerations. But what about the small budget given to women’s rugby in SA Rugby?

There’s no doubt that the male officialdom of SA Rugby have got to change and shift away from their male hegemonic thinking and control. The disrespect given to women’s rugby is shameful and SA Rugby shouldn’t be allowed to go on advancing boys and men in rugby while neglecting girls and women in rugby.

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