South African Rugby League today announced the final training group for the team that will depart in June to participate in the inaugural Rugby League Commonwealth Championship in Glasgow. The Commonwealth Championship forms part of the activities before the Commonwealth Games as part of the Category 2 Application for rugby league by the Rugby League International Federation. Team from South Africa, Jamaica, Canada, Australia, England, Papa New Guinea, Scotland and Wales will participate in a 9s Tournament to showcase the sport to the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Danny Kazandjian, General Manager of the RLEF and a member of the RLIF Commonwealth Committee, was very upbeat, saying: “This tournament, hosted by the RLIF and endorsed by the Commonwealth Games Federation, is an exciting step as part of the RLIF’s stated goal to become a Commonwealth Games sport. Category 3 status was awarded in December 2011 and this is the next step to ensuring that rugby league will be a Category 2 sport by the end of the year. All the participating countries have been working really hard to make this happen, and we are looking forward to a strong relationship between rugby league and the Commonwealth Games Federation.”
The Tournament will be held in Glasgow at the end of June and will showcase some of the sport’s most exciting young talents. The South African Youth (U19) Team is coached by Drikkies Mulder, with support from the SARL Director of Coaching, Fanie Bredenhann. The final training group has been announced and the team will be reduced to 15 players by the end of May. Drikkies was quite optimistic about South Africa’s chances: “Although we are taking a very young team, with some of the players only recent converts to rugby league, we are confident and will play to our strengths, namely fitness, conditioning and physicality. The Student Team that participated in the 2013 Student World Cup proved that South Africa must not be ignored when they finished a very respectable 5th, only losing to England and Wales in the tournament. We will aim to better that performance come June.”
Although rugby league is acknowledged by the Commonwealth Games Federation, rugby league is still struggling to get recognition in South Africa from SASCOC, the official sporting federation for Commonwealth Sports in South Africa. Chris Botes, RLIF Commonwealth Commissioner for Africa, said: “Rugby league has made major strides in Africa, with the game being played in Kenya, Morocco Sierra Leone and Ghana, and being recognized by the relevant sporting federations. South Africa is currently the exception, but SARL is working on a solution with key stakeholders. It is, however, ironic, that SASCOC recently announced their desire to bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, at which time rugby league may be a compulsory Category 1 sport, yet they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the sport currently. We are taking this up with the Commonwealth Games Federation as the RLIF Commission feels strongly that countries that blatantly ignore Commonwealth Games guidelines and discriminate against sporting codes, should be excluded from being able to bid for international events.”