By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The rugby development is showing great potential
in African courtesy of structures and programs being rolled out
by Rugby Africa, the continent’s governing body of the sport.
President Abdelaziz Bougja believes the sport is shining
brighter as more countries jostle to join Kenya and South Africa
as core teams at the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Moroccan has also challenged other teams to take advantage of
the great tradition they enjoy of the sport to develop it,
especially in rugby 15s.
In a special
interview with Xinhua on Friday, Bougja said countries like
Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have got good
rugby 15s traditions and heritage.
He also singled out
teams that have developed tremendously in the shorter version of
the sport, Uganda, Tunisia, Morocco, Zimbabwe and Namibia saying
they are just a step from crashing the party of world elite
“South Africa and
Kenya have showed other African countries that performance at
higher level is not only about money. There is no secret in
Sports: work and you will become the best. Teams like Uganda,
Tunisia, Morocco, Zimbabwe or Namibia are knocking hard on the
door. They have an amazing potential and a huge passion for the
game,” said Bougja.
Rugby Africa is also
contended with three countries representing the continent in the
2019 World Cup.
“The World Cup is
like the final of the football champions league. To get there
you must be one of the very best. Rugby only started in Africa
in the 1950s. However, traditional teams (England, France, New
Zealand...) have a competitive advantage over us. But don’t
worry the potential is on our side and with the proper funding
and training our teams will soon compete with the very best in
the world,” he said.
However, Bougja says
his most important point is the gains made in introducing the
sport to the female gender, which he took upon himself when
elected back in 2012.
“When I came in
there was no women’ s rugby. In my tenure I’ ve pushed really
hard to develop rugby as a whole in Africa. With women rugby, we
adopted a realistic strategy to build from the base and invest
on the future.
“Indeed we couldn’t
organize a 15s a side women competition because number of
players was just not sufficient. So we decided to build a very
strong and attractive yearly Sevens competition in which the 10
best African teams compete for the African Champion and from
time to time to qualify to Sevens Rugby World Cup or even to the
Bougja noted that
with the structures they have been able to introduce the sport
to more women players and soon, the standard and number of the
competition within the continent will increase.
“The ‘Get Into
Rugby’ is a mass participation program dedicated to kids and it
is the key elements of our strategy to develop women’ s rugby.
With more than 400,000 participants in 2017, and 40 per cent
being women, we are improving. Africa has a huge potential and I
won’t be surprised to see Kenya or Tunisia beating England or
New Zealand in future,” he added.
South Africa and
Kenya represented Africa at the Rio Olympics and Bougja wants
that number to increase by merit.
“The Olympics was a
major boost as it makes the young players dream and gives them
the will to become champions. It’s a great reward for our hard
work. It was not easy o to get rugby to the Olympics, but I must
laud the work done by me and Bernard Lapasset, then World Rugby
President, to convince IOC family to give us the opportunity.
Now we are starting to harvest the fruits,” he added.
Rugby Africa is also
working in partnership with 38 African unions to develop the
game in each country and Bougja is banking on good governance to
attain more success.
“The very strength
of our sport is its network of volunteers. Good governance is
definitely the first step to develop our sport. We are looking
into the possibility of creating high performance academies to
assist with talent detection and development,” he said.
In the future,
Bougja believes Africa will be the force to reckon with in the
sport rivaling giants Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and
important for Rugby in Africa not to forget its core values
which are solidarity, integrity, passion, discipline, family and
respect. We have more than one million players. Our objective is
to reach 1.5 million in five years. We have the potential to
beat the best team in the world. So I would like to see more
African teams on the 7s circuit and our African teams delivering
great performance at the rugby World Cup,” he said.