Matheos Viktor Messakh
The Jakarta Post/Jakarta
The 15-year-old boy runs pass the try line, triumphantly throwing the ball to the ground. His joyed is fueled by the mistaken belief that he has just scored five points for his team. But this is rugby not American football.
Instead of cheering, spectators, supporters and officials laugh and the boy stands around wondering why the referee has judged his play a fault.
“He watches too much American football perhaps,” Denny, the chairman of the Jakarta Banteng Rugby Club (JBRC), told The Jakarta Post during the tournament last week.
Britmindo Schools Rugby Sevens is a competition hosted by Labschool Kebayoran Baru and JBRC, featuring five high schools in Jakarta that have been introduced to the sport. The two-day tournament was part of the club’s efforts to popularize rugby sevens.
Rugby is a new entrant in the Indonesian sports world. It only officially took form when the Indonesian Development Rugby (IDR), a rugby club, was established in May 2004 by expatriates and rugby fans.
In the same year the IDR morphed into the JBRC and pioneered national rugby. Club players are also regularly selected to represent the Indonesian National 15’s (the Rhinos) and the Indonesian National Sevens, (Harimau or Tiger).
In December 2005, the rugby enthusiasts who established the IDR set up the Indonesian Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
The IRFU board made rugby development in Jakarta and outlying provinces a priority. A huge step was taken when the board appointed David Nye a full-time rugby development officer in May 2007.
Nye was tasked with going to schools and universities with the aim to developing and aiding the grassroots growth of rugby.
He handed over the program to Sam Refshauge, who continues to hold regular training sessions at schools and universities in Jakarta throughout the year for all levels of players from juniors to first-15 competitive teams.
Later, the JBRC and the IRFU worked together to spread rugby to the wider community. They sent experienced players such as Iswahyudi and Stevie Prawita to get involved in coaching at schools and universities in Greater Jakarta.
Starting with five schools, rugby is now being taught in 15 high schools and university in Jakarta including Darunnajah Islamic school, SMAN 3 senior high school, SMA Lab School Kebayoran, Cita Buana high school, Sekolah Pelita Harapan, Sekolah Global Jaya, Trisakti, Tarumanegara University and Jakarta State University.
Schools such as SMA 3 high school and Darunnajah have gone a step further by including rugby in their sports curriculum.
In January 2009, the IRFU began hosting an annual Schools Rugby 7’s tournament that attracted 14 teams from 11 schools, an increase from the five team tournament in the first year.
The inclusion of rugby sevens by the International Olympic Committee on Oct. 9, 2009, into the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has also helped popularize the sport.
Following the IOC’s move, the Indonesian Sevens national team was formed and actively participates in tournaments around Asia.
“We are looking ahead to larger events and we see the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympics as a good opportunity. We are campaigning to introduce it to more young people and hope that this becomes the breeding ground for national players,” Denny said.
The IRFU is also hoping that with the growth of the game in Indonesia, rugby sevens would also be included in the 2011 SEA Games, to be held in Indonesia.
Despite its brief existence on the international scene, Indonesian rugby is building a reputation in regional tournaments.
In only its second year participating in international rugby, the Rhinos won the Asian Division 6 Championships in Brunei Darussalam in 2007, improving on their runner-up finish the previous year.
In 2008 the Rhinos won the regional division (division 4) of the Asian 5 Nations, gaining promotion into division 3.
The team finished fourth at the Asian 5 Nations tournament in Manila in 2009 and will host the 2010 tournament in June.
Although the national team has gained international recognition, the IRFU has a lot of work to do at home. It is not formally acknowledged by the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) despite gaining full membership of the Asian Rugby Football Union in December 2005.
“Since we have fulfilled all the basic requirements such as have at least 10 provincial rugby unions and have been holding international tournaments, the KOI will hopefully formally recognize us during its meeting on April 27,” IRFU deputy chairman Tito Vau said.
Tito said the IRFU had set a goal of selecting a national under-20 team to represent Indonesia in 2011 by this year.
IRFU claimed that rugby was now played regularly in 12 provinces in Indonesia by hundreds players numbering and a growing number of supporters.
“Six years ago there were less than 100 rugby players in Indonesia and more than 70 percent of them were expatriates. The IRFU now identifies more than 600 players, of whom 70 percent are Indonesian,” Tito said.
The same optimism was also expressed by national team flanker Daniel Rahadian Nugroho.
“Five years ago, it was difficult to tell people that rugby is a very fun game, but now it seems that people are starting to view the game differently,” he said.
Daniel, who joined the national team in May 2005, has participated in dozens of international tournaments and has won several titles, including recognition from the IRB in 2006 as the youngest player to play in an IRB test match.
Photo credit: Indonesian Rugby Football Union (IRFU)