The South African Rugby Union (SARU) made a significant and historic move in January 2014 when they awarded national contracts to fifteen South African Women Rugby Sevens players for the first time in the country’s history. This new development from SARU comes with the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in mind. Women’s rugby has grown tremendously worldwide in the last few years and with the inclusion of Sevens rugby in the Olympics from 2016, the sport will become even more popular.
The country’s women rugby Sevens players will now be able to commit more time to training and concentrate on fine tuning their game & skills, this will increases the chances of the Springbok women qualifying for Rio 2016 and with such a strong squad of women, it could result in medals for South Africa, if not in their first Games, then surely in the near future.
Having been crowned the 2013 Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Champions in Tunisia, it is no surprising that SARU have now shown their commitment to growing Women’s rugby. None of the teams were able to put a single point on the board against the Springbok Women in the pool stages, quarter-finals or even semi-finals. Only the hosts, Tunisia managed to get five points on the scoreboard in the final which they lost against the South Africans. The Women’s Sevens team also finished as runners-up in the Dubai International Invitational tournament in November 2013 and hopefully the team will build on that performance this year.
The 15 are members of the elite Sevens squad will be based in Port Elizabeth in a programme supported by the Eastern Cape’s Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture. This group includes star players Zenay Jordaan, Mathrin Simmers and Veroeshka Grain, who participated in the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow as well as the 15-a-side Rugby World Cup qualifier against Uganda last season. The women’s contracts range from five to twelve months. “This is a watershed moment for Women’s rugby in South Africa,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux. “It shows that we have faith in our players and that SARU is serious about women’s rugby. We are determined to see the ladies excel on the international stage, and by raising the level of professionalism in the women’s set-up, we believe results will follow,” Roux continued.
SARU previously displayed similar faith in the men’s Sevens team in the 2008/9 season when they became the first rugby union to award full-time national contracts to a Sevens team, and the team has delivered consistent results since. SARU have seen enough growth in the sport to make it essential to align their structures with international standards in order to compete successfully against the best teams in the world. This is certainly a massive milestone for women’s rugby in South Africa.