JOHANNESBURG – Rugby in South Africa and the world over is male-dominated and controlled. Amid the male-centeredness of rugby and the hegemonic power it ensures for men in sport, girls and women are now claiming the sport as their favourite and passion.
And with this growing enthusiasm, arrives all the surfacing of incredible raw talent at girl level rugby and women in rugby. Now that they are into the game, women rugby players want to play more, especially competitive rugby and international matches.
SA Rugby concentrates on the development of boys and men in rugby, with little support given to the growth of women’s rugby.
That women’s rugby is fast growing around the world, especially in Africa, is noted by SA Rugby. Yet, SA Rugby still gives a small handout budget to women’s rugby.
Club rugby is there and a national provincial competition is the premier and only domestic tournament for senior women’s rugby. This tournament is played over only one round, with just five matches being played, over about 2-3 months. The top two teams from the round robin event contest the finals of the SA IPT, with the winner being crowned South African champions.
How is women’s rugby expected to develop with just one national competition and just one round of five matches for each team?
Look at SA’s young women rugby talent! Just the other day they were playing under 18 girls rugby. Today, the 20 year olds Aphiwe Ngwevu of Transkei and Alana-lee Horne of Cape Town are playing senior women’s rugby, touring with the women Springboks, playing Test rugby. pic.twitter.com/NYTjptjI4S— cheryl roberts (@cherylroberts00) November 13, 2018
Fortunately, this year the women’s Springbok team is on tour and will play some international matches after not having played much for about three years.
SA Rugby, controlled by male officials, gives the same old argument that women’s rugby can’t get sponsors and SA Rugby self finances the women’s game.
Why is there always no money for women in rugby, but there are always sponsors for boys and men’s rugby? Why must development of women in the game be neglected because there’s supposedly no sponsored money?
SA Rugby official, Pat Kuhn is very keen to have women’s rugby developed much more and given a much bigger budget.
“I’m very much aware of the fast growth of girls in rugby and women’s rugby. Its an ongoing challenge and battle to get more money and much bigger budgets within SA Rugby,’ said Kuhn, who was the only SA Rugby official present at the women’s interpovincial final, played in East London on Saturday.
“I agree that most focus is on men’s rugby with women’s rugby not being able to get much done to show further development and growth. We are seeing investments on our returns after investing in girls rugby and getting the youth training centres set up in all provinces. And out of this ambitious programme is the overflowing girls’ rugby talent that must be nurtured and carefully looked after,” said Kuhn.
SA Rugby has to stop seeing women’s rugby as a burdensome side entity and must involve growth of girls and women’s rugby in all its national planning programmes, strategic planning and deliberations. Budgets for women’s rugby must be prioritised.
Look at the playing of this year’s women’s A and B Section inter-provincial finals in East London. Why didn’t SA Rugby play the women’s matches as curtain-raisers to the men’s Springboks match in PE?
Get this! Today, South Africa is involved in two international rugby matches. And it not only the men Springboks. The women Springboks are also playing a Test match today against Wales in Cardiff. Commercial media would have us believe that it’s all about men’s rugby. pic.twitter.com/7VE7YxtxWO— cheryl roberts (@cherylroberts00) November 10, 2018
About three years ago, after the last women’s rugby world cup, SA Rugby took the decision to impose a moratorium on international matches for women. This was done to focus on establishing girls youth training centres throughout SA to grow the game at youth girls level and surface youth talent that could filter into the women’s rugby teams. Now the girl rugby talent has emerged and it’s overflowing.
Women’s rugby in SA needs and must have much more domestic competition and international play. A double round of inter-provincial competition must be held in 2019. How about a top eight national event, too?
Competition must start in March and go on until about October. Introduce two more national events for women’s rugby. Girls also need international experience and international tours like an SA school girls rugby tour must be undertaken.
SA Rugby can say it is genuine about advancing women’s rugby. But for as long as we don’t see more domestic competition and international matches for women’s 15s and sevens, then SA Rugby will be criticised for neglecting women’s rugby.
Come 2019 and there’s no way we want to see only a one-round interprovincial competition for women’s rugby. A double round on a home-and-away format must be introduced, and more national competitions. Instruct provinces to do much more for girls and women in rugby, not neglect the gender in rugby.
Roberts is a social commentator and analyst on the social positioning of South African sport