Cape Town - South Africa's bid to
host the 2023 Rugby World Cup aligns with the growth of the sport in Africa.
Nearly two millions
girls and boys globally participated in World Rugby’s ‘Get into Rugby’
programme, with 382 500 coming out of Africa.
World Rugby’s 2016
statistics show that 8.5 million men, women and children now play the game
throughout the world and Africa’s numbers total 771 459.
The game has long seized
to be the exclusive domain of men and boys.
World Rugby’s data
revealed that women and girls account for more than a quarter of all global
players and 39% of the ‘Get into Rugby’ participants in 2016 were female.
Nearly two million girls
and boys, from 129 nations, were actively involved in the ‘Get into Rugby’
programme, which was double the figure of 2015.
This is a direct result
of the massive influence of the 2015 World Cup in England and Rugby’s
reintroduction into the Summer Olympics in 2016.
World Rugby’s vision
includes the sport being accessible to the entire family and there is an
emphasis globally on ensuring there is sustained participation when boys and
girls leave school.
The window to the sport
may be through the elite professional teams but the fabric of the sport is in
And Africa is leading
the way in terms of this growth.
‘It is huge for us that
Africa has shown the greatest development of the game through the Get into
Rugby programme. It’s a credit to World Rugby’s vision and also the dedication of
those operational Regional Development Officers and high level of
administration within Africa, who have collaborated extensively with World
Rugby in order to ensure the programmes’ success,’ says Rugby Africa’s chairperson
‘We have always been confident that Africa has massive skills
potential, which is just as important as growing the number of players involved
in the game.’
Rugby Africa celebrated
its 30th anniversary in 2016 with a detailed five-year strategic
plan for the continent, with wide-ranging training courses that will enable
union to autonomously deliver ‘Get into Rugby’ programmes.
The popularity of Sevens
has also helped with the increased numbers playing XV-a-side and Bougja said
the presence of rugby at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics gave additional impetus
to the dramatic increase in playing numbers across the continent.
Sevens is the gateway to
the sport because emerging African teams can be competitive and victorious.
Kenya is now recognised as a top tier Sevens team and their players are among
the most popular in World Rugby’s International Sevens Series.
The scope of rugby in
Africa is enormous and the hosting of the 2023 World Cup on the African
continent would naturally further fast track what is already acknowledged and
described as the sport’s most rapid growth area.
SuperSport, the giant of international rugby broadcasting, has in recent years
also extended its reach and footprint to include many countries in Africa.
This has also raised the
profile of the sport, with supporters and new converts of the game exposed to
the very best global competitions that showcase the sport’s most talented players.
Soccer will always have
the global monopoly in niche sports but rugby is also recognised as having mass
global sporting appeal, with the game’s international controlling body now made
up of 103 full members and 18 associate members.
The game’s worldwide fan
base in 2016 increased to 300 million and this greater interest has also
translated into greater participation in the sport with 10 new countries
adopting the ‘Get into Rugby’ programme, among them Africa’s Morocco and