A long journey for rugby in Indonesia reached a major watershed on Wednesday as news broke out of Dublin that the International Rugby Board, rugby union's governing body, had approved the Indonesian Rugby Union's application for full membership status during its interim meeting.
"This is a huge step forwards for Indonesian Rugby and recognition for all the blood, sweat and tears that have been spent along the way," said Stephen Barber, head of sponsorship and marketing for the Indonesia Rugby Union (PRUI).
The PRUI, founded in May 2004 and an IRB associate member since May 2008, met criteria for full-member status including "a well-structured organization with dedicated administrators" with 310 adult players, 360 youth players, a 10-team domestic competition, a women's national team (the Cendrawasih) and development program and a men's national 15s side — known as the Rhinos — active in Division III of the Asian Five Nations.
Full IRB membership includes access to world-class development programs and materials, funding and entrance into the IRB World Rankings.
The IRB said that Indonesia had "huge potential for further growth." In a press release, the governing body's chairman, Bernard Lapasset, said "these are very exciting times for our sport with unprecedented growth and interest around the world.
"As home to 60 percent of the world's young people, Asia is a strategically important region for the IRB."
2013 has proven to be a landmark year for rugby in Indonesia. In August, the National Sports Committee (Koni) officially recognized rugby union as a national sport, bringing with it government funding and more opportunities for teams to represent Indonesia at competitions, such as the Southeast Asia Games in 2015.
And Wednesday's news came hot on the heels of Indonesia's first-ever international victory in the sport when its sevens side, known as the Harimau, defeated the United Arab Emirates 27-7 at the HSBC Asian Sevens Series in Singapore on Nov. 10.
Is 2013 a harbinger of things to come? "I would see it that way, yes," said Steven Haurissa, a PRUI board member and player for the Rhinos and the Harimau.
The Jakarta Globe is a media partner for PRUI.