The Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) recently approved a new strategic plan, operations plan and is restructuring the continent’s regional competition model. Central to this restructuring of African rugby is the new four-year strategic plan that is hoped will provide stability to African rugby, especially for smaller or potentially more politically unstable nations, and to increase participation in elite-level competitions.
Currently there are 660,000 rugby players throughout Africa, and the goal of this new plan is to increase that number to 800,000 in the next four years.
Africa has long been led in the Rugby Universe by the multi World Cup champion South African Springboks, which given the sporting divide between rugby, favored by the white South Africans, and soccer, favored by the indigenous South Africans. This divide appeared to carry on throughout much of the continent, with soccer being the prevalent sport.
“This is a big step forward for the game in Africa, which is a strategically important growth Region for the IRB with nearly a third of the world’s playing population,” said International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“I am delighted that we have opened the way for a new vision for Africa. I would like to thank the CAR Member Unions for their commitment to growing the Game across Africa and the IRB for their support throughout this process, a process that will ensure that Rugby can welcome new members to the family from new communities across Africa,” added Abdelaziz Bougja, CAR President.
For some African teams with a remaining connection with previous colonial countries, from time to time their players ended up moving from their home country to play for clubs (and at times nationally) for the colonial country. While this was a nice bonus for these former empires, it did hurt the growth of rugby in much of Africa.
Then Kenya exploded on the Olympic Rugby scene back in the early part of the 2000s and proved to nations around the world that they could compete with some of the giants of rugby in this abbreviated format, beating teams such as Tonga, Samoa,England, and an impressive run at the 2009 Adelaide Sevens, making it to the Cup finals by beating South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji.
With Olympic Rugby slated to take the field in 2016, many rugby minnows, such as the U.S. and Canada should be following suit and focusing their development more on the Olympic stage to showcase the sport to the their country folks.