Sir Bill’s deafening silence: It is time to be pro-active

WE HAVE not heard much from Sir Bill Beaumont regarding Africa since his re-election as World Rugby chairperson in March following the gospel of “meaningful change” that he preached in his manifesto and immediately after defeating his challenger Agustín Pichot.

Enock Muchinjo

The on-field rugby inactivity in most parts of the world due to the coronavirus outbreak is perhaps the chief reason for the deafening silence from Dublin, the city of World Rugby’s headquarters.

But in all honesty, while Covid-19 has been a nightmare for sport as it has been for everyday life, I would think that this period provides an opportunity for boardroom policies to be laid out, if there was real sincerity, so that by the time normalcy retains, strides would have been made in terms of revolutionalising a game that claims to be the world’s fastest growing team sport.

Beaumont, the former England captain, last week remarked that the world governing body could offer funding to the Pacific island region to help a Pasifika team take part in a revamped Super Rugby competition from next year.

It is some good news for that part of the world. But Africa, long marginalised, still awaits such kind of welcome proclamations regarding the growth of the game on the continent. More so now that for the first time in history, the head of the African rugby federation has been incorporated into the presidium of World Rugby.

Such statements as the one regarding the Pacific might not be made about Africa anytime soon, thus the need for the stronger rugby nations of the continent to be proactive and force the hand of World Rugby.

Last week we heard Zimbabwe’s coach Brendan Dawson revealing plans about a proposed tour of the Netherlands once the Covid-19 situation improves.

The Dutch are not known for their rugby prowess. Their football team is world-class, one of the best sides on the planet, and the way they play the game gives weight to the term “the beautiful game”.

Their cricket is also of pretty decent standards.

Why would then a country like Zimbabwe, with a richer tradition in rugby, producing world-renowned players and featuring in two World Cups (Netherlands has never been to the Rugby World Cup), be engaging the likes of the Dutch?

One quick answer to anybody who poses that question would be to gently refer them to the world rankings.

Netherlands is ranked number 25, 10 places above Zimbabwe as well as quite a number of countries better known for their rugby than the Dutch.

Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the world and in places such as the Netherlands — where much stronger economies, numbers and coaching techniques permits allows for growth — they will prove competitive on their day against a lot of international teams around the world.

Zimbabwe are also keen on playing the likes of Germany and Belgium, European nations also not big on rugby.

But here is the thing: Zimbabwe and these countries need to establish stronger ties because they truly need each other.

For the likes of Netherlands and others, getting game-time against the Six Nations sides is clearly a non-starter. Even the likes of world second-tier European teams in the form of Romania, Georgia and the likes will view themselves as out of the Dutchmen’s league, and indeed they are.

So stepping out of their zones to engage with Zimbabwe and its peers would provide teams like Netherlands with much-needed competition to continue strengthening their game.

For Zimbabwe and others here in Africa, the feeling is reciprocal.

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