23rd February 2012

The South African Rugby League and Nederlandse Rugby League Bond have both been recognised by the Rugby League European Federation, following a Board Meeting in Leeds. South African Rugby League, already a Full Member of the Rugby League International Federation, was accepted at the same level by the RLEF. Nederlandse Rugby League Bond is now recognised as Holland’s national governing body, gaining Observer status and ending a six-year vacuum.

“At SARL we feel that there is more logic associating with our northern hemisphere partners,” said Kobus Botha, president of the SARL Board, which is now made up of the chairmen of seven active provinces. “Membership to the RLEF allows us to start playing against progressively stronger nations as we develop the sport in South Africa.”

Rugby league in Holland has had a chequered history. The original governing body, the NNRLB, was formed in 2003. It hosted the first qualifying match of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, playing Russia in April 2006, and previously kicked off the European Cup – a nine-team tournament - when facing Georgia at home in April 2005.

But such international exposure did not translate into a durable domestic programme something the NRLB, formed in 2009, is seeking to rectify. Already a registered association in Holland and having successfully secured Leonardo da Vinci programme funding for its coach and match official development, the NRLB’s steady approach has given Dutch rugby league a stable platform from which to grow.

"The NRLB is very excited to be given the chance to re-join the RLEF,” said chairman Jason Bruygoms. “It has given us a real incentive and momentum. We believe we are heading in the right direction, focusing on grass roots rugby league which is fundamental in creating sustainability and a rugby league culture, which are two of our main focuses."

RLEF Chairman Richard Lewis was keen to acknowledge the contribution of both nations, although at different ends of the RLEF member spectrum. “South Africa represents a traditionally powerful rugby country and the energy the newly elected SARL Board has demonstrated should result in enduring growth for rugby league,” he noted. “Africa represents a strategic territory for our sport, more so now than ever before following our recognition by the Commonwealth Games Federation, and I look forward to working with SARL at both national and continental levels.”

“At the Observer level, it’s encouraging to see the methodical approach the NRLB has made in mapping its formal return to the European rugby league family. A signatory to the RLEF Technical Strategy and with a clear aim to develop the sport among locals, theirs is an admirable and sensible model,” he added.

Pictured: Holland in action against Serbia in the European Cup qualifying tournament, June 2005.



Rugby League