Deaf rugby revival surges at inaugural Stones Cup Deaf Rugby Tournament
The deaf rugby revival in South Africa took another giant step over the past weekend as the inaugural Stones Cup Deaf Rugby Tournament kicked off in Bloemfontein.
Four teams - two from Western Province, one from Gauteng and an invitational side comprising of players from Border, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State - are taking part in the tournament, which is named after current Daily Dispatch sub-editor Tim Stones.
Stones has been the driving force behind the revival of deaf rugby in the country over the past decade, having served as the president of the South African Deaf Rugby Union (Sadru) until 2017 when he decided to step down to usher in a new leadership.
Although he had not planned on taking up any new role in Sadru after stepping down, Stones was persuaded by current president Michael Oosthuyzen to stay on in an advisory role and then at the next annual general meeting (AGM) he was asked to come back on board as the public relations officer, which he accepted.
Then following the idea to get a deaf interprovincial tournament back up and running in the country, Stones was honoured to find out it would be named after him.
“Towards the end of last year, following the Sadru AGM, the idea to initiate a deaf rugby interprovincial tournament was mooted,” said Stones.
“The idea was to have all our current deaf provincial teams competing in a round-robin tournament, and to use this to select the next national deaf rugby squad.
“A few weeks after that AGM, I received a formal proposal set up by two members of the committee, detailing a comprehensive plan for this tournament.
“Towards the bottom of the first page I read the proposed name, and their reasoning.
“This proposed name had already been approved by the committee at large, and I was being asked whether I would accept their choice.
“Essentially I was told that they wanted it to be called the Stones Cup in recognition of my long service to deaf rugby in South Africa.
“It is, of course, an incredible honour, one that took me utterly by surprise, and which I find deeply humbling.”
The tournament kicked off this past Saturday and saw the Blue Bulls deaf team thump the Western Province Thunder 45-12 and the SA deaf invitational XV down the Western Province Cyclone 12-10.
Two more rounds of the competition remain, with the Bulls up against the Cyclone and the SA deaf taking on the Thunder on Wednesday, before the two Western Province sides battle it out in a derby on Friday.
On Saturday the tournament will end off on a fantastic note as the Bulls and SA invitational sides will battle it out in a curtainraiser to the Pro14 match between the Cheetahs and Ospreys at the Toyota Stadium.
“It is a massive moment in the history of deaf rugby, not only in South Africa but, from what I have been told by World Deaf Rugby, a big step forward potentially for the global game, in terms of awareness raising,” said Stones.
“The first five games are being screened live on Digitv, with SuperSport providing a highlights package of the final game on April 6.
“So I believe this tournament will be a defining moment for deaf rugby in South Africa, propelling the game firmly into the broader public consciousness.”