Real enthusiasm to grow the Game in Africa

(IRB.COM) Friday 11 April 2014
 Real enthusiasm to grow the Game in Africa
South Africa and Uganda are two of the teams competing in the CAR Women's Sevens in Kenya

IRB Women’s Development Manager Su Carty is in Kenya this week for a series of workshops ahead of the Confédération Africaine de Rugby Women’s Sevens tournament involving eight of the region’s teams on Saturday.

I arrived in Nairobi for what promised to be a super week for women’s rugby in Africa. My first stop was the National Olympic Committee where I met the Chairman and one of Kenya’s legends in athletics, Dr Kip Keino. 

It was great to hear his enthusiasm for progressing women in sport as he proudly spoke about the Kenyan First Lady’s participation in the London Marathon, an inspiration for women in Kenya and indeed globally. 

He sees women’s rugby as a big opportunity for Kenya and expressed his eagerness to support it.

The super week in Nairobi kicked off last weekend when coaches of the women’s national teams arrived for a training programme designed to progress their skills and expertise in their roles. 

They were joined by their teams at the start of the week to experience the unique opportunity to put their new learning into practice with the support and advice from the Regional Training Coordinator and Development Officers. 

While teams will compete in a tournament on Saturday, it was wonderful to see participants embrace the training camp, open to working together, participating in training matches and joint sessions in order to maximise the opportunity presented to them.

Incredible enthusiasm and energy

Off the pitch, those that are working hard to progress the women’s game in their countries came together and I have the privileged position of being at the centre of this, sharing experiences and best practice to assist Unions in Africa progress the development of women’s rugby.

There is no doubting the potential for growth and performance to the highest level for women’s rugby in Africa. The conference has focused on introducing programmes like the IRB’s Get Into Rugby and putting effective plans and structures in place to ensure this potential is realised. 

The energy and enthusiasm in the room is incredible, the commitment and drive inspirational. 

While challenges faced were shared, participants were eager to focus on actions that will make a difference and are hungry for any information and support that will assist them achieve their goals.

It is my first time in Kenya and I took the opportunity to be a little nostalgic! I talked to the Union’s Chairman about how and when women’s rugby started in Kenya. To my surprise I found was sitting beside the person who kicked off women’s rugby in the country! 

Mwangi Muthee proudly told me that he was the first women’s rugby coach in Kenya, starting in his club  Mwamba RFC in 1996/97. Now, as the Chairman of the Union, he wants to see the women’s game in Kenya move to new heights at both domestic and national levels. 

He doesn’t shy away from the gaps in Kenya but his enthusiasm and passion to address this is clear. In his address to the teams at the official tournament dinner, he voiced his hopes and commitment and his address received a rapturous applause when he said “anything men can do women can do better!”

Eight teams battling for title

We were joined at the dinner by the participating teams, all dressed in their traditional African dress. The evening was topped off by local dancers, joined by each of their teams in their turn showing off their unique dancing skills. 

The colours and variety of costumes were amazing, the mix of pride for their country and passion for rugby was special. The evening finished well before midnight as participants quickly focused back to preparation for Saturday’s tournament.

Teams were selected to participate in the CAR Women’s Sevens based on both their ranking from previous tournaments and domestic programmes and commitment from Unions to develop the women’s game in the country. 

The tournament will see the region’s top six nations in South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tunisia, Senegal and Zimbabwe joined by Namibia and Madagascar compete at the Kenyatta Stadium for the honour of being crowned African champions.

Defending champions South Africa will face Madagascar, Senegal and the host nation Kenya in Pool A, while 2013 runners-up Tunisia are joined in Pool B by Uganda, Namibia and Zimbabwe in Pool B. The two finalists will also secure a place as Africa’s representatives in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series qualifier in September, so that is another incentive for the teams.

The future is certainly a bright one for women’s rugby in Africa.