The pools have been confirmed for Rugby World Cup 2021. The women’s elite tourney kicks off on September 18 next year in Auckland, New Zealand.
Pool A sees reigning champions, New Zealand, face Australia, Wales and the final qualification tournament winner. Pool B has Canada, USA, qualifiers of Europe 1 and Asia 1. Rugby World Cup 2017 runners-up, England, are drawn in Pool C alongside France, South Africa and Fiji.
It has been widely thought that women’s sport in general in this country is undervalued and does not enjoy the same status as their male counterparts.
The same can be said about the Springbok Women’s rugby team. While their male counterparts have the world at their feet – World Champions, the Rugby Championship champs, World Team of the Year, World No 1 ranked team and Pieter-Steph du Toit is the World Player of the Year. Their success on the field has seen them enjoy major endorsement deals for both the Springboks and individual players, with sponsors queuing up to be part of the Springbok brand. On top of that, the Springboks have the biggest slice of the SA Rugby budget and the players are handsomely remunerated.
It is the total opposite for the Springbok Women’s team. The ladies have struggled with results on the field of play. The women’s side can be regarded as semi-pro. There are no sponsors lining up to support the team and broadcasting of their matches is also in question.
I had a recent interview with Zintle Mpupha, the Springbok Women’s 7s captain, who is only one of a few contracted players. When I raised the question, whether she thought enough was done by SA Rugby to move women’s rugby in the right direction she said: “SA Rugby is doing as much as they can, and I believe they are doing the best with what they have. It might not be what we, the players, would like, but I believe it is up to us to meet the standards and get the brand known. We always get what we want, the way we want it.”
Zintle, who is fortunate to have a personal endorsement deal with PumaSA, has relocated from the Border region to Stellenbosch as a SA Rugby contracted player. When quizzed about the comparisons between them and their male counterparts with regard to payment and what more SA Rugby could do to lessen the gap she said: “A lot has changed already, so I think SA Rugby is on the right path to make everything for us almost the same as the men. Gradually we’ll get there.”
More worrying is the Springbok Women’s team preparations for the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand. The Springbok Women had an exciting 2020 season planned, with the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup and the year-end tour to Europe scheduled, but their matches were cancelled due to Covid-19.