- Özgür Töre
Rugby Africa is gearing up for a potentially exciting year across the continent with its release of a detailed calendar of upcoming competitions.
One of the six regional associations of World Rugby, Rugby Africa stages five annual competitions across the continent which will include the Rugby Africa Cup, the U20 Barthés Trophy, the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup, Africa Women’s Sevens and Africa Men’s Sevens.
‘With the first round of competitions potentially kicking off in March, teams are already preparing, and by all accounts both unions and players are thrilled at the opportunity to participate in the game,’ notes Andrew Owor Rugby Africa’s Vice President.
‘With the season cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, we look forward to our players returning to the field and advancing the sport and their athletic prowess. We understand that the ongoing pandemic may result in tournaments being postponed or cancelled at short notice, therefore dates are tentative, and we have also allocated ‘fall back’ dates to mitigate any disruptions or delays,’ confirms Owor.
The first highlight on Rugby Africa’s calendar is the U20 Barthés Trophy 2021, which kicks off in Nairobi from 25 March - 4 April 2021. Hosted by the Kenya Rugby Union, all eyes are on the top four ranked teams (Kenya, Nairobi, Senegal, and Madagascar). The winner qualifies for the Junior World Trophy tournament organised by World Rugby, set for September. Fall back dates for this Round-robin single tournament are set to June. In 2019, Kenya hosted and won Pool A.
In May, attention turns to West Africa for the Rugby Africa Cup repechage, a qualifier for the 12th slot in the Rugby Africa Cup Pools 2021. Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Eswatini, Mauritius, Morocco (pending suspension review) Nigeria and Rwanda are all eligible for the big draw, with a July international window as a fallback option.
The Rugby Africa Cup Pools kicks off in July, with four pools of three teams each playing a Round-Robin tournament at a single venue per pool. The best two teams from each pool qualify for RAC 2022, which serves as the final round of Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier for Africa.
The Women’s 15s runs at the same time, with each host union hosting a Women’s 15s test match between host union and a visiting or neighbouring country.
‘This year, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda and Tunisia are likely to emerge as the host teams, but the real prize goes to the winning teams, who can look forward to a fully revived Women’s 15s in 2022,’ predicts Maha Zaoui, Women’s Rugby Manager.
The November international window is earmarked as the fallback option for the RAC Men and Women.
The Africa Men & Women 7s World Cup pre-qualifiers will run through August and September in 4 regional tournaments, with men and women’s tournaments hosted in the same venue, on the same dates.
As a safety precaution, the entire months of October, November and December will remain open should tournaments be postponed and re-programmed due to the on-going pandemic.
‘In collaboration with its member unions, Rugby Africa hopes to deliver a successful and safe 2021 competition season. To ensure the safety and wellbeing of our athletes, officials, and volunteers, we will work closely with our Medical Advisory Committee, our Unions, and local authorities to monitor the situation and take appropriate steps, affirms Khaled Babbou, President of Rugby Africa.
‘The underpinning principle is to give all Rugby Africa member unions a chance to participate in the qualification process of the Rugby World Cup and 7s World Cup.’