Johannesburg – There is no doubt that South African women’s rugby is on the rise, but it still has a long and twisting route filled with difficulties and trepidation to navigate before it can become a true world power.
The Springbok women begin their World Cup campaign this weekend against France. Although they are not anticipated to advance out of their group, which also includes England and Fiji, it will be a good indicator of how far they have come.
SA Rugby over the past year or so – after a four-year hiatus pre-Covid – have made significant moves to elevate the women’s game, appointing former Ireland international Lynne Cantwell to the position of high-performance manager; securing major sponsorships for the national team – most recently FNB; organising more Tests and tours; and also approaching the various unions to establish their own provincial teams.
At the GLRU, the Mastercard Golden Lions Women’s squad, under the direction of head coach Timothy Goodwin, are collaborating with SA Rugby to lay a solid foundation upon which the Springboks may build.
Work is not simple. Currently, as indicated by Goodwin, the Johannesburg-based union’s top goal is arguably the establishment of processes and structures at the grass-roots level, as well as the development of the grassroots level.
Goodwin told Independent Media last week, “We have 20 elementary schools participating in a dedicated rugby program in order to introduce ladies to the sport.” “It is an excellent program in which females play Sevens.
“Then we have a program of 18 high schools playing rugby inside our union, as well as approximately 12 clubs. These achievements will help us advance to the next level of provincial rugby. This is where we must make a difference in order to increase the number of players (both provincially and internationally).”
These clubs include Pirates, the Wanderers Club, the University of Johannesburg, Wits Universit, Soweto Eagles in the Jabulani region, Zondi Women’s Rugby near Dobsonville, Ditau Diarora Women’s Rugby in Meadowlands, a team in Kagiso on the far West Rand, a club in Carletonville, and a team in Alexandra.
Despite the fact that SA Rugby and domestic unions have changed their focus to building competitive women’s teams, Goodwill acknowledges that they will need far more support to make it a success.
Goodwin stated, “There is a great need for support.”
“In terms of resources, we need to come close to parity with the men’s game. This is currently the most significant disadvantage.
“We are close to where we need to be in order to reach the next level,” he continued. “Now, we must ensure that they have the same access to medical services, physical conditioning, and high-performance coaches who understand the game.”
The revolution in women’s soccer in South Africa may occur sooner rather than later. In August, SA Rugby announced that two national teams would compete in the United Rugby Women’s Championship (URC).
“The URC anticipates that their participating teams will have women’s teams for this fantastic competition,” Goodwin said, although limiting expectations.
“We were in negotiations (last week) with SA Rugby about the future of women’s rugby. Hopefully, a nice outcome will result from that. Given the current status of women’s rugby in the United States, achieving that level will need significant work.
As for women’s rugby in Johannesburg this weekend, Pirates women will welcome Ditau in the Women’s club championship match at Pirates Club in Greenside on Saturday afternoon.