SARU launches Fun Rugby Initiative

by | Sep 15, 2009

TAG Rugby A ground-breaking rugby development programme aimed at encouraging children to play sport and steer them away from drugs and crime has been launched by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the TAG Rugby Association. Uniquely, officers of the South African Police Services (SAPS) will be involved as coaches.

The Tackle Safety pilot project will introduce TAG rugby to 24 000 learners at 40 schools on the Safe Schools Programme in the Western Cape. If successful the ambition is to roll out the initiative nationwide. TAG Rugby is a high-paced, contact-free version of rugby where tackles are simulated by pulling Velcro strips from belts worn by all players.

The project has the support of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, the Western Cape departments of Education, Cultural Affairs and Sport, and Community Safety and the South African Police Services (SAPS).

“Forty community schools have signed up for the programme and will receive equipment and coaching,” said Johan Prinsloo, chief executive of SARU at the launch at the Trafalgar High School in Cape Town’s District Six on Wednesday. “The learners at these schools face many challenges in their young lives and sporting opportunities are seriously restricted.

TAG Rugby“This initiative offers them the opportunity to become active in sport and enjoy a lifestyle that’s a challenge to the threat of drugs and crime.”

The launch was attended by Western Cape MEC for Education Mr Donald Grant and Mr Sakkie Jenner, the MEC for Cultural Affairs and Sport, as well as Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros.

A key part of the project is the training and deployment of SAPS officers, alongside TAG Rugby coaches, as integral members of the programme.

“The programme is structured in such a way that it will allow for the building of a sense of trust between the children and police officers, building bridges between the community and the SAPS,” said Stuart McConnell of the TAG Rugby Association. “The model has been used in the UK with great success and we’re hoping to achieve similar results.

“The programme is also unique in that we have three local government departments and the Safe Schools unit working together with SAPS on the Tackle Safety Programme.”

TAG can be played on any surface and requires minimal equipment beyond the belts, tags and a ball. It can be played by players as young as five years old.

“The benefit of the game is that boys and girls of all ages can play in the game,” said McConnell. “This is because there are no scrums, lineouts or kicking. TAG promotes running and passing, attacking and defending. One of the most important aspects of the game is for the children to have fun.”

TAG Rugby TAG Rugby already works with 60 schools and has introduced nearly 5400 learners to physical activity and to a fun version of Rugby in 2009. “We know that this programme will have a hugely positive impact on the 24 000 young learners in the region, through our association with Government departments in the Western Cape as well as the backing of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime,” said McConnell.

“TAG will be using the Choice for Life Organisation to deliver the anti drugs and crime message in the schools and communities for the duration of the project.

“Every school that has signed up for the programme has shown not only a commitment to the programme by signing up, but also realises that this is a unique opportunity to improve the self esteem and confidence of the learners in their schools through getting the children involved in physical activity.”

The Tackle Safety training programme at schools began on 14th September 2009. The programme concludes on 11 December 2009. As well as in-school coaching, TAG rugby tournaments between the schools on the Tackle Safety Project will be a feature of the initiative. The games will begin in the schools in January 2010.

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