Hope for African rugby

Harare – The International Rugby Board is committed to the development of rugby in Africa, a continent that has massive potential to be a force in the game, but which only has one powerful nation good enough to take on the best in the world. The IRB believes that this is an exciting and crucial stage in transforming the fortunes of many rugby-playing African countries and turning them into teams that can compete on the world stage. The Springboks are the rugby flagship brand in Africa while Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia have struggled to fulfill their potential and take the next step to transform themselves into major forces. Zimbabwe, in particular, has a vibrant rugby school structure that has continued to produce world-class players like Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira but the country, which does not have a professional domestic league, continues to lose its star players to other nations. David Pocock, who has risen into one of the prime players in the Wallabies team in Australia, grew up in a farm in Gweru in Zimbabwe. While Zimbabwe and Kenya remain competitive on the Sevens stage, it is the XVs where they have been found wanting. The IRB, working in tandem with the Confederation of African Rugby, now want to change all that and boost the quality of the game, not only in Zimbabwe and Namibia, but across the entire continent. Last month the CAR leadership approved a series of exciting measures that will provide another major boost for the development of rugby in Africa. The key measures, approved by the 23 Unions in Membership of the IRB at the CAR General Assembly in Ghana, include the implementation of a new Strategic Plan, the approval of a new Operational Plan and restructuring of the Regional competition model. The IRB have endorsed that blueprint. “This is a big step forward for the Game in Africa, which is a strategically important growth Region for the IRB with nearly a third of the world’s playing population,” said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset. “The IRB currently invests over US$2.8 million a year in CAR Union development programmes and Regional tournament infrastructure aimed at raising the competitiveness of the game in Africa and we are working in partnership with CAR to ensure that Rugby continues to flourish throughout the Region. “In 2007 a historic accord was signed with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) aimed at jointly fostering sport and Rugby in the Region. “Popularity and participation has been boosted by the Olympic Games decision and there is considerable interest from National Olympic Committees who are keen to establish relationships with National Unions in Africa. “These are exciting times for Rugby in Africa and this new framework implemented by CAR will ensure that the sport continues to reach out to new men, women and children in Africa.” CAR believe that the new developments will ensure that Africa is in the best possible position to optimise the benefits of Rugby’s Olympic inclusion and will provide the blueprint for accelerated growth in both existing and emerging Rugby markets. “Central to the new vision is the implementation of a new four year Strategic Plan that will provide the direction for stability and is aimed at increasing men’s and women’s participation and promoting elite competition success,” said the IRB on their official website. “There are currently 660,000 registered players in Africa, but the goal is to increase participation to 800,000 by Rugby World Cup 2015. “An Operational Plan, overseen by the International Rugby Board, will drive strategies and budgets. “Another important element will be the restructuring of the men’s and women’s competition model throughout the Region including the CAR Africa Cup. “Last year Kenya hosted a hugely successful IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy which included a legacy programme to introduce 100,000 children to Rugby over a four year period. “It is a template that competition structures will emulate in order to provide lasting benefits for hosts and enable Unions to attract future major events.” A new CAR Executive Committee is now in power with Abdelaziz Bougja as its President and IRB Council Member. Gifty Annan-Myres of Ghana became the first woman to be elected to the CAR Executive Committee. “I am delighted that we have opened the way for a new vision for Africa,” said Bougja. “I would like to thank the CAR Member Unions for their commitment to growing the Game across Africa and the IRB for their support throughout this process, a process that will ensure that Rugby can welcome new members to the family from new communities across Africa.”

January 2011
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