It’s all systems go for the South African Bok Tag Rugby team as they prepare to take on the world’s best at the 2023 International Tag Federation (ITF) Tag World Cup, in Ireland, next week.
For the first time in history, South Africa will have three teams represented at the World Cup. The Mixed Open, Men’s Open and Mixed Seniors teams leave for the University of Limerick today Wednesday July 26.
Director of the Tag Rugby Association of South Africa, Stuart McConnell, said it is an honourable and prestigious occasion for all the players who will be receiving national colours.
“We look forward to the teams competing against teams like Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand and many other countries at this event. This is a huge step in the right direction for tag rugby in South Africa as the game continues to gain popularity. We are hoping by offering national colours and players getting national colours we will attract sponsors to invest in the game at both grassroots and high-performance levels,” he said.
“We are extremely excited. Every single competitor (1800) will be staying at the same venue similar to an Olympic village, walking on the grounds, competing against another and enjoying entertainment in the evening,” said McConnell.
Returning for another World Cup is none other than former Oval North High School pupil, Kyle Saunders, 26, from Beacon Valley.
Saunders was already making headlines when he got selected to represent the national team back in 2018. Now, as a senior player and captain of the men’s team, he is ready to lead the green and gold to new heights.
At a training session at Villager Rugby Football Club in Claremont at the weekend, Saunders alongside his vice-captain Chad Philip and teammates, expressed their confidence in the team’s abilities and emphasised the importance of trusting in their training and skills, urging their teammates to believe in themselves.
With a sense of direction and flair on the field, the speedster has become a guiding force for the team, boosting their morale and encouraging them to enjoy the game while fully expressing themselves.
“I add that voice to the team that guides and leads when the boys need a little bit of a push just to stay switched on and fired up because it gets tough out there sometimes. I bring action sometimes more than words which the boys feed off from and I love it. Plus the jokes and the laughs, we love those,” said Saunders.
Off the field, the captain said the Tag Rugby SA team is making a huge difference in the community. Through various outreach programmes, working with schools, sharing the joy of the sport, and equipping young kids with the necessary skills to play the game they love.
“They’ve recently been busy with one in Langa. They also have programmes like “Adopt A School” where they work in specific schools which is pretty cool and they equip the kids with the necessary skills to catch, pass and run into space.
“I’m sure schools and the community can approach Tag Rugby SA on social media platforms and ask if they can come out and share or do a clinic because they love working with kids. In terms of clubs, there are normally social and competitive tournaments held all around Cape Town which anyone can join and play in,” he said.
Saunders’ journey to success hasn’t been easy. Growing up in a challenging environment, he faced financial hurdles and worked hard to raise funds for his earlier trips. Now, he has a powerful message for young athletes facing similar obstacles.
“Don’t let your circumstances hold you back. Work hard, set goals, and trust in yourself. You were made to be great!”