By Abdi Ali
Published December 3, 2017
As rugby’s popularity and television viewing figures grow across Africa, the desire for African teams to win continental and international titles is also growing.
This partly explains why six men’s teams from Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Tunisia and Zimbabwe have their focus trained on winning the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup and joining South Africa that has already qualified in representing Africa in Japan for the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
The Rugby World Cup, according to statistics, is the third most popular sporting event in the world behind the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. More than four billion people around the world are expected to watch the 2019 Rugby World Cup matches on television and see how African teams fare.
The 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup contest shall be held between June 16 and August 18, 2018. The winner will automatically qualify for the World Cup while the runners up will participate in a last chance bracket tournament.
The Rugby Africa Gold Cup rankings follow a points system (win, tie, loss and bonus points) with other criteria in case of two or three-way ties. The winner is in any case the team who scores the most at the end of the tournament. There is no final match to determine the champion, so the suspense builds regarding the final ranking of all the teams until the final second of the last match.
“The fixtures for the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup have been scheduled in consultation with the participating federations and our media partner, Kwese Sports,” says Guédel N’Diaye, Rugby Afrique Competition Committee Director. “The rules remain the same as for the 2017 season, in that the top three teams will play three home matches and two away matches, while the teams ranked fourth through sixth will travel three times and only host two home matches.”
Namibia may have qualified for the last five Rugby World Cups, let alone topping the 2017 season; but qualifying for Japan shall not be a walk in the park for the southern African country as five other countries, led by eastern Africa’s Kenya, have all set their minds and energies on winning the title and going for the world championship in Japan.
Describing the 2017 Rugby Africa Gold Cup as a success, Abdelaziz Bougja, President of Rugby Africa, says “The increased playing time for our flagship competition, with the number of matches going from six in 2015 to 15 in 2018, has been a catalyst for the actual pitch performance of Africa’s best rugby nations. We have been treated to amazing and often close-scoring matches.”
Bougja says fans are showing up at the stadia, tuning in to live broadcasts of all the matches by Kwese Sports or via Facebook.