Uplifting African rugby talent
30 May 2021 | Sports
A central part of the strategy to grow the game, Get Into Rugby enables unions and regions to increase the number of players, coaches and referees entering the game. It also promotes the values of the game and allows boys and girls to enjoy playing in a safe environment.
With the fastest growing yet youngest population, Africa is ripe for this mass participation programme. Keen to harness this potential, Rugby Africa has introduced rugby to 500 000 children every year, touching 3.5 million children’s lives.
Commenting on the success of the programme, development officer Mostafa Jelti said that currently 36 unions are registered and actively participating in the project.
“More than 316 300 new players have been registered since 1 January 2018 of which 46 % are girls. In addition, 4 700 trainers, teachers and referees were trained, among others by Regional Development Officers since the beginning of 2018. It has also opened the doors of schools in several countries where rugby is now part of the curriculum.”
Cognisant of Covid-19 and how it affected the programme, Jelti said that following the outbreak, governments across the continent imposed a ban on sports activities to minimise the spread of the disease. Consequently, unions had to stop activities.
However, as governments continue to relax restrictions, most unions are progressively implementing return to play protocols.
In anticipation of the return to Get into Rugby activities, Rugby Africa is organising online workshops to prepare unions’ Get into Rugby Coordinators and their respective Regional Development Officers and coaches towards a safe return to play.
So far, two workshops have been held. During the first webinar, participants were given an update on the World Rugby’s new Get into Rugby strategy. The webinar also focused on managing a mass participation programme amid the unique challenges experienced in Africa. Secondly, the webinar dealt with the topic of long-term player development with particular attention on skill progression through game-based coaching.
Jelti said that future online sessions would focus on coaching children, providing aholistic approach to developing better rugby players and better people, implementing the new World Rugby Get Into Rugby Strategy, identifying of and building relationships with partners to unlock funding and support, and encouraging coordinators to propose other topics relevant to them.
According to community rugby president at Rugby Africa, Rolande Boro, in line with World Rugby’s updated strategy for the programme, Rugby Africa would look at helping unions to create a pathway from grassroot levels to senior levels and bridge the gap between participation at a young age and active playing at club level.
Alluding to Africa’s challenges (availability of resources and perceptions communities and parents have about rugby), Boro said that the first step was to make the programme attractive by allowing all children access, not just the a few privileged.
“Secondly, availability of resources could be addressed with a school approach, utilising teachers, and volunteers as coaches, linking resources to coaches rather than schools and teams, and making use of the game-based approach in coaching.”
She added that beyond participation, Rugby Africa wants to grow the number of players and thus transform mere participants into players.
“Get Into Rugby also helps raise the popularity of the game, getting more people to know about rugby, follow rugby and become fans or get involved as coaches, first aiders or administrators.”
In addition, Rugby Africa engaged Regional Development Officers who assist unions by offering technical and administrative support.
They also organise and coordinate support coming from partners such as World Rugby and Société Générale who have donated 1 000 balls to unions where Societé Générale has a presence.