The nationwide revival of club rugby remained one of SARU's top priorities and plans to safeguard its survival were at an advanced stage, CEO Jurie Roux said on Monday.
Roux announced the launch of a national club rugby SMS results line and said that raising public awareness around club rugby activity countrywide formed just one part of his organisation's long-term strategy to revamp and improve the game at club level.
“We have over 800 clubs that play every weekend across SA, but supporters often aren't even aware of matches taking place in their community,” said Roux. “We are hoping that clubs will take full advantage of this initiative so that, in partnership with national, regional and local media, club rugby can steadily reclaim its rightful place in the public consciousness.
“Through our provincial unions we have appealed to every club in the country to SMS their 1st team scores to 44678 (charged at standard rates) after every match, thereby leading to increased exposure,” added Roux. “The SARU website (www.sarugby.co.za) also constantly updates fixtures, results and logs from club leagues in all 14 provinces, while our presence on the social media platform Twitter (@saclubrugby) has proven very popular.”
Roux said a recently-completed countrywide investigation into the challenges facing club rugby had given SARU crucial insights into the way forward. “Over the past year we've visited all the provinces to listen to what ordinary club people had to say and we are keeping our finger on the pulse of club rugby by making sure we attend games in different provinces every week,” he said.
“We are also busy with a ground-breaking, independent and scientific national census of SA rugby at schools and club level. As we speak, qualified researchers are travelling the length and breadth of the country, from the major metropolitan areas to the most remote Transkei villages, in order to accurately gauge the health of the sport at the grassroots level.”
Roux added that a decision to exclude universities from this year's National Club Championships in Rustenburg in September was in keeping with SARU's pledge to provide non-university clubs with similar levels of exposure as their student counterparts.
“It is an open secret that we are re-looking the format of competitions including the Club Champs and the various Amateur Provincial and Sub-Union competitions, so that players from non-university clubs are given every chance of reaching their potential,” said Roux. “We've already held workshops with all provinces about the way forward and together with them we look forward to making further announcements in due course.”
Roux said clubs would also play a more important development role in future. “This is long overdue because clubs have not played as important a part in the development process over the past two decades as they perhaps should have,” he said. “The link between schools and clubs is vital, especially when you consider that so many schoolboys stop playing after matric, and our development strategy will ensure that clubs become the hubs around which development in communities takes place.”