By Ken Borland
Interest in playing Rugby is taking off like a missile throughout Africa but the rapid growth means added pressure on the Unions to develop structures and best-practice models that can cope with the expansion in numbers and also continue to steer the development of the Game in their countries.
This is why the Confédération Africaine de Rugby (CAR) and the International Rugby Board have held their Leading Rugby conference since 2012, with the latest edition taking place in Cape Town last month.
The conference’s intention is to help the Unions set up the systems which will enable them to manage the Game most effectively in their countries. The eight best-performing African Unions, namely Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Tunisia, Senegal and Botswana were invited and CAR is intending to offer something similar for other Unions in the near future.
All eight Unions sent their presidents, CEOs, national technical directors and marketing and communication managers, and they were able to see first-hand the South African Rugby Union’s model for success. And with two Rugby World Cup wins under its belt, that success is considerable.
A series of excellent presentations
Apart from hosting the event and providing strong logistical assistance, SARU’s general managers also gave excellent presentations on a development strategic plan (by Mervin Green, who is also the CAR secretary-general), high-performance strategy (Justin Durandt), government relationships (Khaya Mayedwa), communications plans (Andy Colquhoun) and marketing (Andy Marinos).
Jean-Luc Barthes, the IRB’s regional development manager for Africa, also gave a review of the highly successful Get Into Rugby programme and a presentation on the organisation of Unions.
CAR operations manager Coralie van den Berg said: “CAR's intention with this workshop was to provide a platform to its best performing Unions where their executives could meet and exchange ideas and experiences. In addition to this, CAR – with the support of the IRB and SARU – delivers high-quality presentations to supply Unions with more information on specific topics and to stimulate debate. It is a great opportunity for the Unions to ask questions to experts and compare their specific situation with SARU’s best-practice model.
“The intended outcome of the workshop was for the Unions to go back home with a clearer picture of what their best-practice model could look like on all the topics discussed.”
CAR signed important agreements
But the benefits did not end with just a three-day conference. CAR has signed an agreement with SARU that will allow the CEOs and national technical directors of the Anglophone Unions to spend two weeks in practical training at SARU’s office as well as at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports.
“In this way, CAR can provide continuous support to their Unions to achieve better results and implement better policies in their countries. We will design a customised agenda for each of the trainees that will focus on their specific areas of interest and specific needs of their Unions. CAR is busy discussing the same process for Francophone Unions with the Fédération Française de Rugby,” van den Berg said.
Another top-class initiative by CAR is its decision to support each Union on a specific technical project. Tunisia, for example, has expressed a need for a high-performance coach or consultant to help them reach their objective of qualifying for the women's Sevens event at the Olympic Games; Madagascar has requested the assistance of an expert to build a strong sponsorship proposal and sell it to potential corporate partners.
In addition, Henry Kemp, the Namibian Rugby Union’s development manager, is the first person to be inducted into the two-week programme at SARU and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports.
“The feedback from the Unions about this workshop and the support structure put in place by CAR has been very positive so far and executives are willing to work hard and extract the maximum benefits for their Unions through these programmes,” van den Berg said.
This feature forms part of our Around The Regions series exploring the game beyond its traditional heartlands. Do you have an interesting story to tell about Rugby around the world? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ken Borland