Cape Town - South Africa’s current successes on the rugby field are rapidly spreading throughout the other formats of the sport, as six youth touch rugby teams have returned from the recent World Cup with bronze medals.
The tournament, held in Putrajaya, Malaysia, was the first Youth Touch Rugby World Cup in 13 years. With approximately 30 teams from across the world making the journey to South East Asia, the event attracted a similar number of teams to the 2001 edition, with the exciting addition of the USA, competing for the first time at a Touch Rugby World Cup.
With Australia and New Zealand consistently the top performers, South Africa’s closest competition came from USA, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Several round robin group stages were fiercely contested, but each South African team saved their strongest performances for the bronze medal matches, overcoming strong teams to come away with the spoils.
The South African Touch Association (SATA) was able to send a team for each category competing at the tournament, which underlines the phenomenal progress of the sport, despite a lack of funding and access to resources.
Under-18 girls coach, Labeeb Levy, expressed immense pride in the achievements of his team, commenting that the squad had to overcome major hurdles before they even boarded the plane.
“It was actually really tough for the girls because we had a lot of withdrawals due to financial and other reasons. The semi-finals was the aim but it was a complete bonus to come away with the bronze medal.”
With a wealth of knowledge from a career in professional coaching, Levy is a huge advocate of the sport, suggesting that "touch doesn’t compete with contact rugby, but it complements the skills needed in the game".
“How many sports do you know where a mother and a father can play against a son and a daughter? We have a girl in our squad from Manenberg and a girl from a wealthy area of Durban, so (the sport) brings together people from such different backgrounds.”
Cape Town is also scheduled to host further touch rugby action, with the annual Junior Inter-Provincial Touch tournament taking place in the city in September 2019.