Rugby is the fastest-growing sport in Africa, and holds one of the fastest-growing fan-bases in the world, with an increase of 30 million+ across the continent since 2013.
If we rewind the clock on rugby in Africa back 16 years to 2002, only six African nations – Morocco, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Namibia, and South Africa – were recognised as ‘rugby-playing’. Now Rugby Africa, World Rugby’s African division, has an astonishing 38 members – an increase of 32 ‘rugby-playing’ nations.
This means that now, of the 54 African nations, only 16 are not considered to be ‘rugby-playing’, highlighting the growth of the sport’s popularity on the continent. One of the countries which has seen some of the biggest growth is Madagascar, which has more rugby clubs per capita than any other African country.
In total, Madagascar has more than 520 registered clubs, with 160 located in the country’s capital, Antananarivo, alone. Other countries which have grown exponentially are Senegal and Nigeria, which have seen 292 per cent and 282 per cent increases in player registration respectively between 2012 and 2017.
These exponential increases have undoubtedly contributed greatly to the continental increase in player registration of 66 per cent (excluding South Africa) in 2017, which is more than double that seen elsewhere in the world (27 per cent). There are now eight African sides within the world men’s XVs Top 50 rugby teams as well.
The rise of rugby is not restricted to the male population on the continent however, as there is an increase of 50 per cent in the number of female rugby players in the last year. Rugby Africa also had a far higher percentage of female participation (46 per cent) than any other region in the world in 2017.
The growth among females also means that 20 per cent of African rugby players are female, while three African rugby unions are chaired by women.
It’s not only the XVs format of the game that has grown however, as Kenya’s rise in World Sevens highlights the success on that front as well. In the 2017–2018 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Kenya managed to finish in a respectable eighth place, an agonising one point behind Argentina in seventh.
We have also seen the addition of many African Sevens teams to the world circuit, such as those from Uganda, Ghana, and Zimbabwe.
All in all, rugby in Africa is on the rise at a rapid rate, and the rugby world should most definitely be on the lookout for more African nations on the sport’s biggest stages.
For a few more statistics on rugby in Africa, have a look at the infographic below:
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