No rugby despite regulation changes

By Michael Uugwanga

ALTHOUGH contact sports are now allowed to start with their activities following the government’s decision to remove the state of emergency as of September 19, the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) has no intention to reengage for the year.

As most countries in the world have or are set to start rugby, Namibia on the other hand will only start with its activities next year said NRU president Corry Mensah in an interview with Confidente Sports Desk this week.

The Namibia Rugby Premier League (NRPL) which was supposed to start in March was postponed to next year as many players were not ready to play rugby especially in areas that were identified at the time as epicentres of Covid-19; in particular the town of Walvis Bay that is home to Kudus rugby club.

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Countries such as New Zealand, England, Australia, South Africa and Japan for example can afford to start with their rugby season without spectators inside the stadium due to availability of resources such as television rights.

“We are not going to backtrack with our decision to call-off our activities for this year. The league will only take place next year, but however we will be having some pre-season training for the national team. But all this planning will be discussed at the Ordinary General meeting in October. Rugby is not like soccer that is played anytime of the year.  By this time of the year we should have finished with our league had we started the season.

“Normally in rugby you need six weeks to prepare the players, so we cannot afford to start with the league later this year as there is no time left. This also applies to women rugby.

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There is also no economic sense to play rugby because in other countries they have television rights while here our local rugby depends on gate takings,” said Mensah.

World Rugby, the game’s governing body and World Cup organisers, has divided the global game into Tier One and Tier Two nations with Namibia falling in that latter category.

Tier one consists of the teams in the Six Nations – England, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and those who compete in the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Tier two rugby playing nations are Namibia, Canada, Russia Tonga, Uruguay, United States of America, Romania, Spain and Portugal.

Besides Namibia, tier two rugby playing nations have all contracted their players through their respective unions, something that Namibia has failed to do ever since the lockdown due to the uncertainty surrounding the start of rugby.

Mensah said if local rugby is to become professional more resources from both the government and corporate sector will need to be pumped into the sport.

The NRPL has been without a sponsor since 2013, with sponsors such as Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) and First National Bank (FNB) Namibia only sponsoring the Welwitschias.

Meanwhile NRU has appointed Theo Grunewald as its new Chief Executive Officer.