Since South Africa hosted and won the third Rugby World Cup in 1995 –their first-ever participation at the tournament, the Springboks, as they are called, have continued to be pacesetters of the game in Africa.
Prior to that historic moment, South Africa had failed to participate in the previous editions in 1987 and 1991 due to the sporting boycott that apartheid brought against the Rainbow nation.
South Africa had only been readmitted into the International Rugby Football Board (now World Rugby) in 1992 following an agreement to bring an end to apartheid. Their first-ever match at the World Cup saw them defeat defending champions Australia 27-18 in the opening match, a win they built upon, qualified for the final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, then went on to win the game 15-12 against New Zealand.
Impressively the Springboks have participated in every Rugby World Cup since their maiden appearance, emerging winners for a second time in 2007, as they beat England 15-6 in the final.
South Africa’s continued dominance of rugby on the continent boils down to one major factor, talent development. Despite an increase in crime rate and drug use among teenagers, the rugby governing body and other partners to their credit, have overcome those challenges to sustain the growth of the game at the grassroots level across the country.
The South Africa Rugby Legends Association (SARLA) introduced the Vuka Rugby Development programme targeted at students between the age range of 15-19. The program is aimed at positively engaging teenagers from disadvantaged areas, by developing their interest and skills, and granting them access to top-notch rugby training and facilities. This effort has yielded steady progression, as a good number of the boys have been recruited by various rugby unions to represent them at tournaments.
Another developmental platform afforded young rugby players in South Africa is the newly launched Stellenbosch Academy of Sports (SAS), a program aimed at developing young black South Africans.
Consistent competition against several highly-rated rugby nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Argentina at the annual Rugby Championship – a tournament hosted by South Africa — can only mean the players are regularly kept in top shape and form by playing against the best. All these sustained efforts both at the grassroots and national level by the South Africa Rugby Union can only result in more years of success for Rugby not just in the country but also projecting the development of the game on the continent.