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Rugby’s new passionate frontier: Africa

The World Rugby Council opened today in London and will vote on Wednesday for the country to host the 2023 World Rugby Cup. South Africa is very likely to win.

When it comes to the world’s biggest rugby nations, it would be easy to assume that the most fanatical supporters would be in the old guard countries of international rugby. England, New Zealand and South Africa all come to mind but few can rival the passion and energy of African rugby.

In a continent known for great footballing nations, the oval ball has been Africa’s best kept love affair for decades and one that continues to blossom. The number of registered players on the continent jumped up from 770 000 to over a million in the last year alone. In 2013, World Rugby’s “Get Into Rugby” initiative attracted 22 000 players, in 2017, that number was 384 000. 

The number of female rugby players in Africa has seen a 50% increase between 2016 and 2017. In 2017, 20% of rugby players in Africa are women and girls.

These numbers are echoed by the real passion and dedication of African rugby fans across the continent. Madagascar is a perfect illustration of this passion. With rugby as their national sport, they have more rugby clubs per capita than any other country with 160 Rugby clubs in the capital city alone. Their national team, made up of amateur players, always fills the Mahamasina Municipal stadium with passionate fans.

This surge of interest seems likely to continue with 22 000 schools now including rugby in their curriculums across Africa, up from 20 000 in 2016. Africa is rapidly becoming the world’s largest youth pool with 60% of the continent’s population under the age of 24 and that number is predicted to grow.

Additionally, new teams are rapidly rising up the ranks. Algeria founded their rugby federation in 2015 and entered the Africa Bronze Cup for the first time in 2017. After a surprise performance, the Algerian national team reached the final against a Zambian team that had been undefeated since 2002. They went on to win the competition, a mere two years after their federation’s inception.

With South Africa likely to be announced as the host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup this week and the African Gold cup in 2018, the profile of African rugby has never been higher and the continent’s governing body for rugby is rising to the occasion.

As a result of this spotlight and Africa’s huge potential for the sport, Rugby Africa has partnered up with Africa’s leading media relations consulting firm, the APO Group. The partnership was formalised by APO Group’s CEO, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard and The Chairman of Rugby Africa, Abdelaziz Bougja at the World Rugby’s annual executive council meeting in London on November 12th 2017.

APO Group count Facebook, DHL, Uber, General Electric and Societe Generale as some of their many clients and bring world leading expertise to bolster Rugby Africa. APO Group’s wealth of experience, global and pan-African, will be an invaluable part of raising the profile of African rugby globally as well as promoting the sport across the continent.

“We will devote our efforts to bringing a new dimension to the discipline in Africa and beyond the regional borders,” says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, APO Group’s CEO. “In addition to the initiatives we’ll undertake to build momentum and engage and inspire new audiences, we will use our expertise in media relations to put the spotlight on African rugby and reach thousands of potential fans.”

This enthusiasm is shared by the Chairman of Rugby Africa, Abdelaziz Bougja: “We are very excited to have APO Group joining us as Official Partner. It was important for us to team up with the ideal partner: a company sharing the values of integrity, respect, tolerance, discipline and passion commonly associated with rugby.”

This partnership perfectly embodies the future of African rugby, it is the story of huge opportunity made up of Africa’s huge pool of young players paired with the economic potential of a booming sport for Africa and the world. This partnership, and Africa’s perfect economic and demographic landscape mean that African rugby is undoubtedly the one to watch for many years to come.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of AFP Services.