South Africa Rugby League

Date: 1/5/13

A South African Rugby League Student Team will partake as a “Rebel Tour” at the 2013 RLIF Students Rugby League World Cup that takes place in Leeds, England. The South African team is studded with some of the best student players from various universities, colleges and tertiary institutions across South Africa, and will come face to face with some of the best in the world from Australia, England, New Zealand, Wales, Russia, Scotland and Ireland to mention a few. The team departs for England on the 1st of July and will face England, Wales and Ireland in the Pool Stages. The final will be on the 14th of July at Headingly Stadium in Leeds, United Kingdom.

Kobus Botha, President of South African Rugby League, says: “It is a tremendous honor to have a South African team over there, especially after the banning of rugby League from the early sixties up to 1995. Although the South African Rugby League team that toured in the sixties to Australasia, was known as the “Springbok Rugby League” side at the time, the players were in for a shock as rugby league was banned after this tour on political grounds and because the players were paid for services rendered. In theory it is now an open opportunity for all South Africans to participate in this exciting, fast and spectacular sport and especially after the new dispensation.

“But”, says Botha, “ this is not where the ongoing discrimination ends”.

The South African Sport Commonwealth and Olympic Committee has been steadfastly refusing to acknowledge Rugby League as a sport in South Africa, opting rather to continuously try to force South African Rugby League to affiliate to South African Rugby Union. Although both SARU and SARL has agreed that such an affiliation is unconstitutional and that Union and League are two completely different rugby codes, and have presented official documentation of this to SASCOC, they still insist on trying to negotiate an affiliation. SASCOC is not prepared to give way, and is ignoring the fact that Rugby League is also recognized by the Commonwealth Games Federation as an internationally registered sport from December 2011.

“The result of this discriminatory behavior by SASCOC is that the Student Team will in effect be a Rebel Tour and would not be allowed to officially represent South Africa at this 14th Rugby League World Cup. This will go down in history as a travesty unless there is a drastic change of opinion from SASCOC’s side, ” says Botha.

The international governing body of rugby league in the world, the RLIF (Rugby League International Federation) is a member of the Commonwealth Games Federation and in the process of getting membership to SportAccord. Such membership would mean that SASCOC would have no option but to recognize rugby league due to clauses in their constitution that guarantees recognition to sporting codes that are acknowledge by SportAccord and the Commonwealth Games Federation. “ In fact, South Africa is the only major rugby playing country in the world where league is not a recognized sport, and countries such as Australia, England, Morocco, Lebanon and many others look on in disbelief at the shortsightedness of SASCOC’ said Botha.

Notwithstanding the lack of support from either SASCOC or the Department of Sport and Recreation, the South African team has raised private funding and through a collective effort is managing to raise enough funds to go and play for their country come July, unfortunately they can only go as a Rebel Tour, akin to the old tours during the Apartheid years because SASCOC refuses to recognize and support the sport. The team of young players is some of the best in the country and South Africa is intent on making their impact be felt when they run on foreign soil this year.

Rugby League became a sport in 1895 in the north of England and has grown into one of the biggest team contact sports in the world. Very similar to rugby union, rugby league only has 13 players, no line outs or contested scrums, opting instead for a more attracting “tackle ball situation” wherein a team has six chances to score a try, else lose possession to the opposing team. Rugby League is well established in South Africa and complies to all the stipulations and requirements for membership of SASCOC and to be recognized as a national sport in South Africa.