Rugby players and supporters in Jakarta were in a celebratory mood as the Indonesia National Sports Committee officially recognized rugby union as a national sport during a ceremony in Jakarta on Wednesday last week.
The Indonesia Rugby Union (PRUI), whose vision is “to bring rugby and its core values to the forefront of Indonesian sport for the benefit of all,” was founded in May 2004 by a group of volunteers and since then has seen significant growth at all levels of the game, including junior and senior sides, coaches and match officials.
“I see yesterday’s event as PRUI’s coming of age,” said Steven Haurissa, who will be reporting to the National Sports Committee (KONI) as PRUI’s head of international cooperation and currently leads a sub-committee on international affairs within the union itself.
“We, now, will not only have to be accountable to our mates and the association but, also to our fellow countrymen.
“We will always be ready in facing anything that comes our way and we will do our utmost to develop this game all around our nation.”
KONI chairman Tono Suratman led the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by members of KONI and PRUI, including current and former players for the Indonesian national rugby team, the Rhinos.
“Let’s see how rugby does in Indonesia now we have a management that has never previously existed,” Tono said, who pointed out that rugby was not totally new to Indonesia — it was played decades ago by members of the military.
Rugby, and the PRUI, became a permanent member of KONI on Feb. 21, and Wednesday’s ceremony marked the end of the sports beginnings in Indonesia.
Rugby’s global profile has grown since 2009, when the International Olympic Committee announced that rugby sevens would join Olympic competition in 2016.
This year the Rhinos more than held its own in Division III of the Asian 5 Nations rugby competition, defeating China 37-13 to take third place in June.
The win was the Rhinos’ 10th from 18 tests since its first match against Cambodia in 2006.
The PRUI’s members are heavily tied in with the national side. Akmal Nasser and Yudha Ramon — secretary general and chairman of the organization, respectively — both played for the Rhinos before hanging up their boots and trading the pitch for the office.
“The last ever match we played was won in the last 2 minutes after a nail-biter against Pakistan in the Asian 5 nations,” Akmal said.
“Now our national duties are basically in the administration of the sport but rest assured the passion and commitment is still the same as we had when we were in the field.”
The PRUI still has a lot of work to do in a country where the rugby’s impact is limited.
“With KONI’s full endorsement of rugby being accepted as a fully fledged national sport, it is now so much easier ... for the PRUI to develop the sport with the support of our national sporting body right behind us to ensure cooperation of other organizations, whether private or public,” Akmal added.
“For example, PRUI, like any other national sport, should and must have its own ‘home ground’ that it can be proud of. However, such a venture is ... farfetched for PRUI to go it alone.”
The recognition marks an important step for the PRUI as it seeks to become a permanent member of the International Rugby Board.
The PRUI hopes this can be achieved in November but until then it is only an associate member.
Indonesia has started its potential Olympic tilt by establishing a national under-20 team, which will compete in Asia’s biggest rugby competition, the HSBC Asian Sevens Series, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, this month.
The U-20 side — dubbed Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) — will be up against China, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong, Thailand and host Malaysia.
KONI recognition also means PRUI will be able to select and train both men’s and women’s teams for the South East Asia Games in Singapore in 2015, further enhancing the profile of the sport at home and abroad.
The Jakarta Globe is a media partner for PRUI.