THE forthcoming Sevens Rugby tournament to be graced by South African Springbok Sevens and Kenya at Setsoto Stadium received a shot in the arm from Kwese TV who announced they would be sponsoring the competition.
The sponsorship was unveiled early this week during the launch of the September 23 and 24, 2017 Maseru Invitational Sevens Tournament.
Deputy Minister of Gender, Youth, Recreation and Sports Rethabile Marumo Mokaeane attended the launch.
The Sevens tournament will be followed by a Tri Nations tournament in Mafeteng in October this year featuring Swaziland and Malawi and the country that finishes top will qualify for the next stage in the continent.
Kwese TV, a multi-platform broadcasting television network owned by mobile communications giant Econet, are the main sponsors for the Sevens tournament.
Econet Lesotho are also the kit sponsors of the Lesotho Rugby team, Likatola.
Apart from the Rio Olympics (Brazil 2016) participants, Kenya and bronze medallists, South Africa, the competition will also feature Mauritius, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Federation of Lesotho Rugby (FRL) president, Fetang Selialia, applauded Econet for supporting them from the beginning.
He said he and a group of friends conceived the idea of establishing a rugby body in Lesotho while they were watching the 2011 Rugby World Cup which was staged in New Zealand.
“We had been following rugby for a long time and as we were watching the 2011 World Cup we decided to establish an organisation to oversee the development of the sport in the country,” Selialia said during the launch.
“We did not even understand some of the rules but Econet came on board and have been with us from the start.
“Today is a special day because we are going to launch a busy schedule of activities for our sport in the country.”
Selialia called on Basotho to extend financial and other forms of support to their initiatives to promote rugby in the country.
“I call on Basotho to support our upcoming events starting with the gala dinner as well as the two tournaments that we will host in Maseru and Mafeteng.
“The availability of funds will make it easier to have development programmes to grow the sport in our country.
“This is why it is important for people to support the two tournaments that will be held in Maseru and Mafeteng.
“It will the first time that a tournament of this magnitude is held in this country. It is important that we also perform well so that we are promoted to the bigger stage of rugby.”
He predicted a bright future for rugby in Lesotho, saying despite the recent formation of the national team in 2014, it had done very well by winning four out of the seven games it had played so far.
For her part, deputy minister, Mokaeane, said she was confident that hosting the two rugby tournaments would “add a different dimension to economic growth and I’m hopeful it will get the support it deserves like it has with Kwese TV”.
“Ladies and gentleman, let me take this opportunity to thank the organisers of this tournament. I would like to thank Mr Willem Strauss for his continued commitment to promoting the sport.
“We all concur and rejoice for the unwavering support from all sponsors who have made this launch possible. Lesotho is very proud of you team rugby. Keep it up and continue to shine the flag of Lesotho,” she said.
For his part, Strauss, who is a rugby promoter for South African side, Blue Bulls, said he only discovered very recently that there was rugby in Lesotho.
“I never knew rugby existed in Lesotho and here we are today with the Sevens tournament that will be staged in this country.
“I believe that the tournament will put Lesotho on the rugby map and it is also a good exposure for the players,” Strauss said.
He said Lesotho could emulate the success of Fiji who have a competitive rugby national team despite their small population.
“I do not see why Lesotho cannot go as far as playing in the Olympics if a country like Fiji with the same population has achieved success.
“I am confident that hosting this tournament will leave a lasting legacy in Lesotho as we will also train coaches and referees to get them ready for the tournament.
“It is also great to have the government’s support.
“Let’s get people to support the tournament in big numbers. It will be great entertainment with lots of competition and it must be like a music festival.”
He also said they would offer one of Lesotho’s outstanding players a scholarship to hone his skills with one of the rugby clubs in South Africa.