South Africa: Task team formed to ‘consider’ World Rugby’s tackle height recommendations

Dylan Coetzee
South Africa: Lood de Jager with ball in hand

The South African Rugby Union has established a task team dedicated to considering World Rugby’s recommendations on lowering the tackle height at club and school levels.

This was part of a ‘ground-breaking’ amateur workshop where various issues were discussed with the 15 member unions.

Below sternum

World Rugby’s recommendation is to lower the tackle height to the sternum or middle of the chest and in May the governing body’s council will decide whether national unions will be given the opportunity to opt-in on a global trial.

SA Rugby’s chief executive Rian Oberholzer revealed how the workshop went and detailed the next steps forward regarding their response to the recommendations.

“This workshop was the first opportunity to engage with our most important stakeholders, who are the leaders of the community game at provincial level, which included a representative of the SA Schools Rugby Association,” said Oberholzer.

“Professor Ross Tucker of UCT, who advises World Rugby on such matters, made a presentation to the workshop on the science behind the recommendations, which will help reduce the risk of head and neck injuries, and increase the focus on player safety and safeguarding. There were also presentations by Clint Readhead SA Rugby’s Senior Manager in the Medical Department and Dr Wayne Viljoen, SA Rugby’s Senior Manager for Rugby Safety.

“This is an important issue for the game and the task team will report back from their considerations and how they believe South African rugby should best respond to the recommendation.”

Growth in the women’s game

The workshop highlighted the growth in the women’s game with SA Rugby’s general manager for strategic performance management Ian Schwartz discussing the data.

“The 74% growth in women’s rugby players from 2021 to 2022 shows we are on the right path,” said Schwartz.

“The growth in female schools players was also significant while in all areas the game – on and off the field – the inclusion of women at all levels rose to 24%. I must congratulate all the member unions for the work they are doing and their approach at the workshop.”

Oberholzer was delighted with the collective buy-in of stakeholders to player safety across the board.

“It is important to remember that success at the higher levels of the game starts at the grassroots level, in our clubs and communities,” he said.

“It was great to see union CEOs and general managers, as well as other personnel involved with amateur rugby, and SA Rugby employees responsible for player safety, women’s rugby, referees, training and education and service providers of capacity building programmes, all united by a common goal of making rugby grow, safer, more inclusive, and more accessible to all.”

Commitment to creating opportunities

Meanwhile, Schwartz underlined the commitment to securing financing to keep the game going at a community level.

He added: “Creating opportunities and building capacity through rugby for our communities and people are our ultimate goals. Financing is crucial in ensuring the game stays afloat, which is why we also explored funding opportunities available to amateur rugby, with particular emphasis on the Lotto and government funding.

“In addition, discussions were held regarding the Gold Cup and other amateur club competitions, which will help ensure that community rugby remains a vibrant and competitive part of South African life.”

READ MORE: South Africa: SA Rugby to discuss World Rugby’s tackle height changes