Rugby Africa releases 2018 international schedule

Rugby Africa

Rugby Africa released its competition schedule for 2018 in Cape Town on Wednesday, with up to 32 participating countries competing in 10 competitions and 150 matches in total.

The 2018 African 15-a-side champion qualifies automatically for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, while the runner-up has one final chance of securing a berth at the global showpiece through a chance bracket tournament.

"It's a rich and well-articulated program that we offer to rugby federations and fans in Africa. Rugby Africa wants to involve as many countries as possible in its continental competitions," said Abdelaziz Bougja, President of Rugby Africa.

"This we do in a spirit of solidarity but also to allow local rugby to develop by having the opportunity to progress and play in bigger tournaments. The participation and hosting of continental competitions are important arguments for retaining talent but also to gain support from institutional and private partners."

The Under-20 Barthés Trophy will kick-off Rugby Africa's competitions from March 28 to March 31 and it will decide the U20 team that will represent Africa at the Junior World Trophy later in 2018.

The Rugby Africa Bronze Cup will then take place from May 9-12 in Accra, Ghana.

A four-team competition, this tournament is the gateway to Rugby Africa's men's rugby competition. Here, Lesotho and Ghana will make their first appearance at this level following Lesotho's victory in the Regional Challenge 2017 and Ghana's acquisition of full membership status of World Rugby.

Ladies will be under the spotlight in May and June with a women's leadership forum, followed by the 10-team Africa Women's Sevens tournament. The exact dates and location are still under discussion but promise a nice surprise.

Six teams will compete in the year's premier competition, The Rugby Africa Gold Cup, which kicks off on June 16 and will continue until 18 August.

Whilst the Gold Cup will break due to a very busy international calendar - in particular with the Sevens Rugby World Cup from July 20 to 22 in San Francisco - the next best-ranked six teams of Africa will compete in two pools as part of the Rugby Africa Silver Cup from July 8 to 14. A final match between the two pools' winners will later decide the promoted team in the Gold Cup for the following year.

Finally, the season will end in September and October with a sequence of three men's rugby Sevens tournaments.

Meanwhile, two sub-regional tournaments will see up to 20 countries compete for qualification in the last round of Olympic qualifying in 2019.

Then in October the 12 best African Sevens rugby nations will compete for the title of 2018 African champion and a chance to be invited to some stages of the World Series and the repechage tournament that would allow them to join South Africa and Kenya in the prestigious circuit.