Women's Sport

Exclusive: Cecil Afrika on Shaping the Future of Women's Rugby Sevens

In a exclusive, Rugby Sevens legend Cecil Afrika opens up about coaching the South African women's team, as they strive for Olympic glory and advocate for gender equality in sports.

Karien Jonckheere
K. Jonckheere

Last Updated: 2024-03-20

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Cecil Afrika in Springbok Sevens jersey

Renowned for his flashy footwork and prolific points scoring, Cecil Afrika is a name that is synonymous with Rugby Sevens. He may have finally hung up his boots in 2022, but since July 2023, the top points scorer in South African Sevens history has been ploughing his extensive knowledge and experience into the country’s national women’s rugby as their assistant coach alongside Renfred Dazel.

Olympic Dreams and Women's Rugby

While the Springbok men’s sevens side, once a dominant force in the sport, are surprisingly yet to qualify for the Olympic Games – with only one last shot to do so – the women’s team booked their ticket to Paris 2024 by winning the Rugby Africa Women’s Sevens regional qualifying tournament in Tunisia last October.

Afrika is relishing a return to the Olympic Games, having been part of the team that claimed bronze at Rio 2016, but he will not be drawn on any comparisons between the sides, and their paths to qualification.
“As I am not a part of the men's team, I'm not able to knowledgeably share thoughts on this. I do believe they have the potential and hope they can translate it on the field,” he said of the final qualification tournament in June.

quote icon

I don't really make the comparison between the two as the journeys are a bit different and our focus is solely on the women to ensure we do our best and improve to the best of our ability.

Cecil Afrika

While Afrika will be cheering the men’s team on all the way, his focus is purely on preparing the women’s side for the challenge that lies ahead. And he’s not experiencing any of the FOMO one might expect.
“I will always love the game and enjoy watching it,” explained the 2011 IRB International Sevens Player of the Year. “When I made the decision to hang up my boots, I started enjoying it from a new position and found fulfilment in that.

“Thus far I have found the experience to be enjoyable, with quite a lot of learning, good challenges, and also a lot to look forward to.”

Cecil Afrika mid-game

Cecil Afrika mid-game

Promising Results and Olympic Aspirations

The South African women’s team have been showing some promising results under Dazel and Afrika. Once considered the minnows of the women’s game, the team reached the quarterfinals at the most recent tournament of the HSBC SVNS Series in Los Angeles and are optimistic about heading to their first Olympic Games.

Asked what the goal is in Paris, Afrika remains pragmatic, however: “Tough question as it is the very first Olympics for this team. Foremost, it is to embrace the entire experience, all of it and for it to be a memorable tournament as that will lead us to the right space, we wish to be in.”

An Olympic medal with the women’s side might not be on the cards just yet, but Afrika is enjoying being part of the movement to place more importance on the women’s game.

quote icon

He is always the light in the room. He’s a very inspirational guy and a very positive guy to be around and I think that’s exactly what we need in the ladies’ system.

Janse van Rensburg on Cecil Afrika

Advocacy and Impact

“I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this movement. I truly believe that women deserve an equal platform, as they certainly have what it takes and am honoured to be in a space where I can do my part to effect this change. Also, for future generations to come,” he said.
The women under his charge are similarly grateful for this impact on their team.

Star of the South African women’s XVs and Sevens sides, Libbie Janse van Rensburg, who was last week named Springbok Women’s Player of the Year at the SA Rugby awards said: “For me being lucky enough to have the knowledge of a player like Cecil Afrika at our fingertips – and the opportunity for him to share that with us is such an honour for us.

“When he shares his knowledge with us, especially the ladies team, I think we’re like sponges. For me, I just try and take in as much of everything that he says because obviously, this man knows exactly what he’s talking about. He has been there; he knows exactly what we’re going through. Knowing that he’s also gone through it is also something that I think is very valuable for me as a player and for the team as well,” added Janse van Rensburg.

Stay connected with for the latest updates on rugby and discover more exclusive insights from rugby legends. Let's explore the world of rugby together as we celebrate the sport's triumphs and challenges.

Karien Jonckheere
Karien JonckheereSports Writer

With over 20 years of experience writing about sports across three continents, Karien is a seasoned journalist with a global perspective. She's honed her craft at leading titles in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the UK, where she served as a chief writer for the official daily magazines of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.