Tough year past, but many highlights

On behalf of the WPRFU we offer our best wishes to you for the festive season, and trust that you are spending this time with your loved ones.

2020 has certainly been a challenging year for WP Club Rugby, but even though it has been a difficult year particularly with no fixtures the year has been full of highlights as we saw our clubs step up to the plate.

By March this year we had already scheduled just over one thousand six hundred matches for the season with more to come, including the play-offs which culminate at DHL Newlands, the annual Score WP Club Rugby Sevens and our Women’s Club Rugby division.

We started the year in anticipation of a fantastic season ahead with many clubs playing pre-season friendlies early in 2020. At the time we envisaged an exciting year ahead for club rugby as we could see the standard of rugby across all the leagues and divisions had kept improving. 2019 had been an exciting year for WP Club Rugby as we saw several clubs go toe to toe with very small margins and it was clear our clubs were ready to build on this.

The standard of rugby had steadily improved as we saw that our coaching courses were paying dividends. Combining this with the various improvements and additions our clubs had been making in management structures and the wise use of technology the year ahead was going to be exceptional. Clubs had been deploying additional committees to deal with leadership matters and various appointments such as additional coaches including strength and conditioning coaches.

Sadly the season ahead never materialised as COVID dealt a devastating blow to club rugby. The impact was severe not only from a fixture point of view but also to all the periphery benefits the game of rugby brings to our rugby community.

COVID not only impacted our fixtures but also the micro economy of club rugby. Clubs lost gate takings, kiosk sales, player and coaching fees and membership subs amongst the many other benefits physical events bring to a club rugby structure. For many communities who depend on their local rugby club, the loss of regular club rugby activities has been severe.

The spirit of club rugby was however not going to be beaten that easily and our clubs rose to the occasion with a fighting spirit. It was evident early in lockdown that our club structures were no strangers to challenges and were naturally geared to use their organised club rugby structures to support their players and the communities they serve.

Witnessing our club structures galvanise their management and players into support units which stretched far beyond the eighty minutes between the white lines was heart-warming. Using the leadership skills of club rugby we saw our clubs move into action without hesitation to support their players and their local communities in need. Many clubs started outreach projects which included feeding schemes and fundraising. Clubs reached out to local sponsors, past players and in many cases their personal funds to support their members and families during very difficult times.

We knew the loss of physical social interaction had a tremendous impact on our members as we witnessed the joy from our members to see each other face to face when we had our first group engagement which saw just over eighty clubs arrive at DHL Newlands to collect more than one thousand food parcels courtesy of our partnership with NGO United Way. These parcels would each feed a family of six for a month.

At WP Rugby we quickly moved our coaching support systems into the digital space and rolled out online coaching and education workshops including coaching, referee, and media, marketing and sponsorship workshops. One of our highlights of the year being the establishment of our High Performance Coaching programme which is exclusively for Women. These programmes see us positioned for an excellent 2021.

Additionally, we embraced the digital era even further with the roll-out of our African Bank Esports challenge which will see our clubs go head to head in the online arena early next year. We anticipate that this extension will bring a new dimension to the excitement of club rugby membership engagement, and we look forward to many more innovative concepts for our membership.

Many clubs used the opportunity to engage new skills amongst their members to help build websites, digitise old photographs and strengthen their social media presence whilst others took the opportunity to work on administrative matters such as constitutions, committee structures and membership. All of these elements have strengthened our club rugby structures and will no doubt see us move into the future with several new dimensions.

As we now reflect on 2020 we note the terrible impact COVID has had on our members, but we also note the strength of WP Club Rugby and the wonderful gift our clubs bring to society through the world of rugby as they deliver strength, hope and opportunity to their members and the communities they serve.

There is no doubt that our clubs are ready to tackle 2021 whatever the challenges might be.

We take this opportunity to remind our members that COVID is rife amongst our population as we entered the second wave, and to take every precaution during the festive season and beyond during the time of COVID. We remind you to practise social distancing, wash hands and always wear a mask which covers both your mouth and nose.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those that have lost someone of late. We trust you will draw strength from your family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.