South Africa prioritizes women’s rugby

South Africa prioritizes women’s rugby

There is little doubt that South African women’s rugby is on the rise, but there is still a long, twisting path ahead of it, one that is paved with uncertainty and challenges.

The Springbok women’s World Cup campaign gets off this weekend against France, and although it is unlikely that they will advance through their group—which also includes England and Fiji—it will be a barometer for how far they have come.

After a four-year hiatus prior to Covid, SA Rugby has recently taken significant steps to advance the women’s game. These steps include appointing former Ireland international Lynne Cantwell to the position of high-performance manager, securing significant sponsorships for the national team, most recently FNB, planning more Test matches and tours, and contacting the various unions to establish provincial teams of their own.

One such effort is taking place at the GLRU, where the Mastercard Golden Lions Women’s squad, led by head coach Timothy Goodwin, is collaborating with SA Rugby to provide a strong foundation on which the Springboks can grow.

It is difficult labor. According to Goodwin, growing at the grassroots level and putting in place the necessary protocols and structures there are now the top priorities, notably at the union’s headquarters in Johannesburg.

Goodwin told Independent Media last week, “We have 20 elementary schools on a program devoted to rugby so that the ladies may experience the game.” The girls’ Sevens program is a remarkable initiative.

Then, inside our union, we have a high school rugby program with 18 schools participating, and we also have roughly 12 clubs. These will serve as our stepping stones as we advance in the provincial rugby hierarchy.

It is here that we must make a difference in order to ensure that the playing base (both provincially and worldwide) is expanded.

In addition to Soweto Eagles in the Jabulani neighborhood, Zondi Women’s Rugby in the Dobsonville region, Ditau Diarora Women’s Rugby in Meadowlands, a team in Kagiso on the extreme West Rand, a club in Carletonville, and a team in Alexandra are among the clubs mentioned above.

Although domestic unions and SA Rugby have moved their attention to building strong women’s teams, Goodwill also acknowledges that they will need much more support to be successful.

Goodwin said, “A lot of help is needed.

“We need to have virtually as many resources as the men’s game has right now. The main drawback at the time is undoubtedly that.

He continued, “We are generally on track in terms of what we need to get to the next level, and now we have to make sure that they have the same access to medical services, the same access to physical conditioning, and the same access to getting high-performance coaches, people who understand the game.

Perhaps sooner rather than later, the women’s game in SA will undergo a revolution. Two South African teams will compete in a United Rugby Women’s Championship, SA Rugby announced in August (URC).

Goodwin moderated expectations by saying, “The URC are expecting its participating teams to come up with women’s teams to play in that beautiful tournament.”

“We had conversations (last week) with SA Rugby about the future of the women’s game. I’m hoping something good will come out of it. If you think of where we are as a nation in terms of women’s rugby, it will take a lot of work to get there.

In terms of this weekend’s women’s rugby in Johannesburg, Pirates women will host the Women’s Club Championship game versus Ditau on Saturday afternoon at Pirates Club in Greenside.

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