Unlike other sporting codes in Botswana, rugby has always been unfortunate not to have a great following and support from Batswana. However, this does not work as a deterrent to Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) president Elijah Jones’ quest to take rugby to soaring highest. Even though Jones acknowledged that this will be a big task he is confident that the game will soon become a household sport just like other traditional codes. Eventhough Botswana national rugby team recently failed to gain promotion to 1B category during the six-nation’s tournament which was hosted in the country, Jones is still confident the Vultures will eventually get promotion.
BRU president said the team should have gained promoted but it was just unfortunate because Swaziland did not put up competition at the end of the tournament. “The team played very well and put a good performance; however Swaziland let us down letting Mauritius to easily sweep them over with such a big margin,” said Jones. Botswana has won three of the four games they played and they were sure to get promoted. But a massive thrashing of Swaziland by Mauritius (134-0) left the local side with a mountain to climb to qualify. For Botswana to gain promotion they were to beat Zambia by a huge margin of about 70-0 which was close to impossible. With the final score of 38-9, the Vultures had their wings clipped and they could not gin promotion to 1B.
Despite this Jones is happy with the performance of the team and he believes with time they will have a formidable team to go places. “We just need to play more games and the team will be unstoppable,” said Jones. He said they have set targets for both the players and the technical team that they want to go for high honours. The determined Jones called on sponsors to come on board to help them grow the code in the country. “We are indeed in desperate need of sponsors to be able to achieve this massive task before us,” pointed Jones.
To achieve the targets of going for top honours the local rugby body has recently come up with rigorous measures of unearthing and developing talent from an early age and have a strong team that can challenge for these honours. There are programmes such as ‘Get into Rugby’ where the association go around holding coaching clinics to cultivate interest of playing rugby in young people. They also engage schools to help promote the game from grassroots level. According to Jones, this will help to create a pool of players that will eventually feed the national team. “We have to identify players and invest on them to develop them into strong future players. Promising players have to be offered scholarships and sent to high performance centres for training,” he explained.
According to Jones, even though the Vultures seem to be doing well in their category at the moment there is still a lot more that needs to be done to get them soar higher. Compared with the likes of the neighbouring South Africa, Botswana rugby still lacks way behind and this goes along with what Jones said. “This is why we need to put more emphasis on the development of players from grassroots level,” said Jones. In what has been seen as a great development, BRU has for the first time introduced Vultures Team B. The team, which is said to be already doing well, is set up to be a feeder for the first team. With Team B in the picture the senior team will have a continuous supply of talented and experienced players at all times without having to struggle to identify players.
On infrastructure development, BRU is currently on a mission to construct a sports facility that will be home to rugby. Jones said that they want to build a big facility that will house a number of sporting grounds of different codes, which will help with the shortage of sporting grounds in the country. The massive project is likely to cost a fortune and BRU is running around in search for possible partners. “We have since received quotations from some companies and we are talking a lot of money,” confirmed Jones. He explained that they have a huge challenge as they do not yet have a partner or sponsors for this development. BRU is still in consultations with stakeholders and also trying to seek financial support for the project.
Despite the little support the rugby union gets at the moment, Jones promised to take the game of rugby to greater heights. His appointment as BRU president has brought hope to some within the Union that the game of rugby will grow in leaps and bounds.