Rugby in Nigeria, the good and the bad in 2015
In spite of Rugby Football failing to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) could still proudly boast of having had an eventful calendar in 2015.
The players and the federation believed they had done their best but failed short of making it to the Games. In the end it was South Africa and Kenya that so far qualified.
However, there are still two slots for Zimbabwe, Morocco or Tunisia at repechage to be staged early next year in Monaco, France.
The National team, the Black Stallions failed to qualify, because four countries are expected to qualify from Africa. The National team had placed distant eighth at the last qualifying championship held in South Africa.
Earlier in the year, the Stallions, which was initially ranked 73rd in the World Rugby ranking dropped two places because of their failure to feature at the Rugby World Cup held in September in England.
Olatunji Fasimoye, the NRRF Technical Director told NAN that the Nation’s Rugby controlling body would work at moving up the table in 2016.
“We will try our best to ensure that we move higher on the table. I am not pleased at our decline.
“A major reason for the drop was the country’s inability to qualify from Cup 1c to Cup 1b, but I pray that with luck, commitment and hard work, we will move up the ladder soon’’.
He said that there was the need for players to work more on their personal training in 2016, saying that NRFF would not relent in exposing the players to local and international competitions.
The short-lived consolation was that the Stallions qualified to present a team at the 12th Africa Games, held in September in Brazzaville, Congo.
The National team had secured the qualification at the Africa Cup Olympic qualifiers held last June in Lome, Togo.
The hopes of Black Stallions were, however, dashed because of the late withdrawal from including the sport in the Games programme by the hosts.
Congo did not obtain the permission of the World Ruby body to include the sport. They country is not an affiliate.
Azeez Ladipo, the Captain of Black Stallions told NAN that it was disheartening that the sport was removed from the Games by Congo, because the African body did not sanction the staging of the sport.
“This is because Congo was not an affiliate of the world body.
`Well, I think the year has been of an average performance; it is definitely not where we wanted to be but both the men and women teams showed commitment.
“We kept pushing hard in spite of the lean resources available to the NRFF. I must commend all that have played a part in the Northern, South-West, South-South Leagues and the various 7s tournaments within year under review.
“Kudos to the U-17 Rugby 7s team and all the schools/colt rugby coaches. We all kept the game going this year.
“Our international representation obviously improved from last year with our 2nd placed finish at the Africa Cup1C and 8th placed finish at the Olympic qualifiers.
“Even though we ought to have achieved better results, we have to accept that it is work in progress as we have yet to stabilise our teams.
`The federation is still hopeful of hosting the Super Cup to determine the 2015 League champions,’’ he said.
The Black Stallions, the defending champions of Independence Rugby Sevens Cup, won the inaugural President’s Rugby Cup held in October at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos.
The Independence Rugby Sevens replaced the President’s Rugby Cup at the last moments because of logistics problems.
The Rugby League also recorded a successful outing in 2015, where the Cowrie Rugby FC (RFC) of Lagos emerged winners of the South-West League.
Barewa RFC of Kano emerged winner of the Northern League. There was no league matches in the South-South.
According to the National team captain, in spite of the shortcomings, the sports and the federation performed well in the outgoing year because the teams showed commitment.
It remains to be seen what 2016 will bring.