The exploits of Rwanda’s pioneering national team, the Silverbacks, are helping make rugby the fastest-growing sport in the country. And the team’s debut appearance in Hong Kong’s world famous GFI HKFC Tens – popularly known as “the best tens tournament in the world” – in March 2013 has accelerated this expansion.
Since the formal establishment of the Fédération Rwandaise de Rugby (Rwandan Rugby Federation) in 2009, boys and girls of all ages and abilities have been taking up the game in increasing numbers. There has been continual development of structured leagues and other competitions while the Silverbacks – named after Rwanda’s signature mountain gorillas – have been proud rugby ambassadors overseas.
The Silverbacks have toured to Hong Kong each year since 2010, playing in tournaments, training with elite coaches and players, and winning many new friends. In the first three years, they played with distinction in the Kowloon RugbyFest, a 10-a-side tournament featuring teams from all over the world.
In 2013, they stepped up to the GFI HKFC Tens, a tournament featuring teams packed with players with Rugby World Cup, Super Rugby and IRB Sevens World Series experience. Adding to the excitement for the Silverbacks was that they were guided through the tournament by former Scotland coach Frank Hadden, who has played a key role in Rwanda’s rugby development to date.
The sponsorship, publicity, rugby experience and goodwill generated by these tours are driving the game’s development at home.
In addition, the FRR has developed close ties with Penguin International RFC, the elite UK-based touring team that visits rugby backwaters across the world to spread the game and teach rugby’s core values.
Rugby’s rise in Rwanda reflects the growing status of the country itself as a flag bearer for Africa with new-found political stability, an expanding economy and a burgeoning tourism industry.