SA Women’s Rugby Preparing For Return To Women’s Rugby World Cup By Cheryl Roberts

15 May

South Africa’s women’s rugby 15’s are slowly being taken back to international participation with, according to budget, planning of tours in and out of South Africa to get the national women’s rugby team developed, finely tuned and ready for a return to the 2021 women’s rugby world cup. All this being done to ensure the elite women rugby players have advanced their skills to help them better perform in international competition.

According to SA Rugby’s women’s manager, Mr Mahlubi Phuzi, at least two international tours are confirmed for SA women’s rugby in 2018. ‘The national women’s rugby 15’s will tour Wales in October, playing two Tests. Then they will play a home series against Hong Kong in December. These tours will greatly benefit advancement of the national 15’s squad that we are preparing to hopefully be at the 2021 women’s rugby world cup,’ said Mr Phuzi.

Investment is also being ploughed into under 20 women’s rugby with the establishment a few years ago of provincial youth training centres for girl rugby players.

‘We assessed the state of women’s rugby in South Africa, after our participation in the 2014 women’s rugby world cup. Took a tough look at the situation we in and realised we had to go back and develop our youth girls rugby so we could be much stronger years later. That’s when SA Rugby initiated the YTC’s in all provinces and we established the u16 and u18 national Youth Week. This is a national competition held annually for girls rugby where all the provinces have girls teams, they play and enjoy rugby and we see the talent coming through,’ explains Mr Phuzi.

To improve elite women’s rugby in South Africa, SA Rugby deliberately took a decision to place a self moratorium on international play for women’s rugby 15’s to concentrate on building stronger national women’s rugby teams.

This decision was taken after the not-too-impressive Springbok women’s team’s performance in the 2014 women’s rugby world up. It was back to youth investment and consolidation of development and training structures.

Now the young and emerging players from the YTC’s are being brought into national squad structures, allowing for mergence of young players with the older, experienced senior provincial players.

‘The self-imposed international moratorium was taken so that SA women’s rugby 15’s and the Springbok women’s 15’s could get better as contenders at women’s rugby world cups. We don’t want to be there just to fill the places. That journey started in 2015 with the introduction of the YTC’s. Hopefully, SA Rugby will also be able to initiate a national under 20 women’s rugby competition so the young players can be competitive and competition ready.

‘Now we are concentrating on building a national women’s rugby squad with under 20 players coming into the set-up. At our first high performance assessment in March in Cape Town, where we gathered a national squad for assessment, several under 20 players were included. We must know what player skills we have to go forward and we cat rely on ageing, experienced players who will one day retire,’ said Mr Phuzi.

That women’s rugby in South Africa needs much funding and investment, there is no doubt. Speaking to rugby managers around South Africa, one knows the passion is there to further develop and advance women’s rugby. The players, too love women’s rugby and want to see the game being developed to higher levels. But this year, again there will only be one round of senior inter-provincial competition, before the final. ‘There’s not much we could do given our national women’s rugby budget,’ said Mr Phuzi. ‘We have to make do with the financial resources and try to hold competitions. Yes, we do need more national competitions for under 20 and senior players.’

With girls rugby growing in South Africa, much more money needs to be allocated to women’s rugby. The provincial YTC’s are positive initiatives and soon a quality national crop of senior players would have surfaced from such development efforts. But along the way, women’s rugby must not be given the crumbs of funding in SA Rugby. Much more funding commitment is needed.IMG_0580

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