Rugby’s Spirit of Fraternity Means As Much As The Score & Game. Rugby is played world-wide but the sport shares a brotherhood that goes well beyond match day, from promoting equality to offering assistance in adversity.
Rugby seems to have a fraternity that is unique. Its participants are keenly aware of the sport’s kinship and obligation to give back. It has even included nation-building, as witnessed by Nelson Mandela and his challenge to the South African rugby team in the 1995 World Cup, celebrated in the film, Invictus (Spyglass Entertainment/Warner Bros, 2009).
President Mandela asked the South African captain, Francois Pienaar, “How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing less will do?” It is the stuff rugby players often rise to.
Rugby’s History of Kinship
The game simply has a celebrated history and camaraderie.
- In 1890, the famous Barbarians of England were formed with the motto, “Rugby football is a game for gentlemen in all classes, but never for a bad sportsman in any class”, which speaks to the sense of equality and fair play. To this day, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia rugby tours through Great Britain play the Barbarians last, honouring that time in1948 when the proceeds of the match went towards travel costs for the visiting Australia team.
- Trophies and test matches have established national contacts as well as rivalries. For instance New Zealand and Australia have competed for the Bledisloe Cup almost 150 times since 1931 and that trophy’s competition has drawn the largest rugby crowd of almost 110,000 according to the Rugby Football History site.
- Rugby sevens, a variation on the fifteen players, has held a tournament in Hong Kong since 1976, started after discussion over a pre-luncheon drink. The tournament hosted representative teams from eight countries in its inaugural and had 24 teams from every continent vying for the trophy in 2011.
- Women have 12 teams that have competed for their own world cup since 1991; the New Zealand Black Ferns having won the last four times.
Since 1998, rugby sevens have been part of the Commonwealth Games and now, rugby players and fans welcome the sevens back to the friendship games of the Olympics in 2016.
Rugby’s Sense Of Global Responsibility
Rugby enthusiasts are very aware of world events and often use their sport to leave the globe a better place. Whether it is helping fellow rugby players defray costs or raising funds for beleaguered citizens, rugby seems to step up for a cause.
For instance, in the recent 2011 Hong Kong Sevens, Vancouver Island’s Canadian Rugby Foundation, a registered charity, raised $15,000 to support travel and training costs for the Canadian team. According to Clive Dheensaw of the Times Colonist (March 17, 2011, p. B2), the executive-director of the foundation said, “We put out the appeal and it all added up.”
Gareth Rees, the Team Canada rugby legend who played in four World Cups, was a graduate of Victoria’s Saint Michael’s University. He donated an old rugby boot as a trophy between rivals SMU and Oak Bay seventeen years ago. Gareth’s father presented the trophy to 2011 winner Oak Bay but not before the game was dedicated to two hospitalized athletes, one suffering from leukemia and the other from a viral infection. (Dheensaw, Times Colonist, March 10, 2011, p. B1).
When Christchurch, New Zealand, host for the November 2011 World Cup, was devastated by an earthquake in February, teams from around the world rallied to raise money for the survivors.
- New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders stadium, Lancaster Park, was damaged. So legendary rugby site Twickenham in England offered to host the New Zealand club vs. South Africa in order to encourage recovery donations. This will allow the game to be played in front of 82,000 instead of the normal 10,000.
- The official site of the British Columbia Rugby Union, reported that a number of BC teams were raising money for both the New Zealand and Japanese earthquake victims. Over $3,300 was raised from 50-50 draws and sales of jerseys and other paraphernalia. Ironically Canada played and beat Japan, 33-12, for the consolation round bowl at the recent Hong Kong Sevens.
As Oak Bay’s Castaway Wanderers Rugby club spokesman, Matt Gordon said, “It’s a show of rugby brotherhood to do what we can.”