SU to host South Africa’s first FISU rugby sevens championship in 2026

For the first time since its inception, South Africa will be the host nation for the The International University Sports Federation’s (FISU) 2026 Rugby Sevens Championship and Stellenbosch University (SU) will have the honour of becoming only the second African University to host this biannual international university rugby showpiece.

The University of Namibia hosted the 2018 edition. Incidentally, it was also the year that the South African men’s team took the gold medal spot while the women finished in the fourth position after narrowly losing to Belgium in the bronze medal match.

“It is a tremendous privilege and opportunity for Stellenbosch to host the 2026 FISU Rugby Sevens Championship. The tournament offers the opportunity to showcase our extraordinary sports facilities at Coetzenburg, our beautiful campus and our rugby culture with students from five continents. Sevens is a fast-paced and exciting rugby code and our students, staff and the local community will enjoy the tournament tremendously,” says Prof Stan du Plessis, SU’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We have enjoyed the hospitality of our French hosts in Aix-en-Provence these last few days, where the South African men’s and women’s squads excelled. Of course, we expect our teams to lift both trophies in 2026, but the tournament’s purpose is not in the first instance to lift the cup; instead, this Championship is an opportunity for student-athletes from around the world to compete and meet one another in an inspiring setting. The Local Organising Committee at SU is committed to ensuring such an event, where we aim for the most significant number of teams ever at a FISU World Rugby event Championship,” said Du Plessis.

Ilhaam Groenewald, Chief Director for Maties Sport, expressed excitement at the partnership with University Sport South Africa (USSA) and SU to welcome athletes, coaches, staff, family, friends, and communities from around the world to our campus for an international university rugby sevens event. “Stellenbosch University remains a top sporting destination, committed to providing world-class facilities and expertise for athletes to showcase their talents and achieve their best. Our University is dedicated to using this event to invest in rugby and promote sporting excellence, cultural diversity, and international camaraderie. We anticipate an unforgettable experience for all participants and spectators,” said Groenewald.

This year’s tournament was hosted in Aix-Marseille-Provence, France and took place over two days, from 10 to 12 June. Head of Rugby at Maties Sport, Drikus Hancke, believes the 2026 edition of the FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens will show the world what Maties Sport has to offer. “Stellenbosch University is well-known for producing top-quality athletes in individual and team sporting events.”

It is, however, the logistics, potential tourist influx, and event management of this magnitude that a very proud Hancke hopes the public will get to experience and view what the beautiful town of Stellenbosch has to offer. “A tournament of this magnitude has certain standards that have to be adhered to even before the event has to be awarded to a university,” says Hancke.

“Maties’ facilities and the people who manage them across all sporting codes have the necessary experience in hosting large groups of international traveling teams. It is this keen sense for detail that has set the Maties organising committee on a path to set a new bar for hosting world-class university competitions,” says Hancke

“The significance of being awarded this bid lies in the fact that it is an international competition showcasing the best-participating universities 7’s talent. By hosting this event, it allows us to showcase our facilities and event capabilities. In bringing a world-class event to Stellenbosch will give us international exposure and bring a high-quality international event to Stellenbosch. With the large influx of teams and supporters, it will benefit the town of Stellenbosch and its surrounds,” says Hanke.

Hancke said SU’s facilities are of the highest standard and as such the planning is around ensuring that everything, including the fields, is in good condition. “Logistically we have to ensure an event of international standard making sure that everything from accommodation, meals, sports equipment, transportation, and a medical plan are in place. From an events perspective, the promotion and funding of the event is a big focus. We receive good support from USSA and SA rugby to ensure that all the technical aspects of an event of this calibre are done at a high standard. FISU guides in terms of what they expect but at Stellenbosch we set ourselves high standards, so we are planning for some additions and value adds to make the event special.”

Despite ticking all the boxes, crossing the “i’s”, and dotting the “tees” on the safety, logistics, event planning, and other tournament non-negotiables, Maties Sport send a delegation to the 2024 FISU World University Championship Rugby Sevens to learn in real-time and knowledge share from this year’s host university organising committee.

According to Hancke Maties Sport divided their team to engage in all aspects of the match day delivery and planning of such a big event. It is a big help to be able to see the tournament first-hand and learn from the experience of the host.

“Events of this size have a lasting impact not only on the community within the institution but the broader communities, districts, towns, and neighbourhoods it is situated. Tourists flock to the Cape Winelands town to experience its vineyards, wine farms, and beautiful summer events, the Maties Sport leadership hope to leave a legacy that will forever be etched in the annals of Stellenbosch,” said Hancke

“It is an opportunity for us at Maties Sport to engage with international University delegates who we do not already have a relationship with and see where opportunities might lie. We are also planning to reach out to the local community and involve them in the planning and executing of the event so that through their involvement we can create collaboration and learning opportunities. The schools in the area can also look forward to opportunities like coaching clinics and of course, being invited to come watch the matches.”

Hancke says the exposure SU will receive from the tournament will be wide and as such might attract talent that the University do not normally reach. “Our facility and event management will hopefully attract more potential tournaments to be held here. An event of this size creates a lot of awareness and will hopefully attract more people to rugby in our area,” Hancke concluded.


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Kimara Singh