The member unions accepted two constitutional amendments to increase gender diversity.

The first mandates that each union’s delegation to General Council meetings must include at least one female representative. The second ensured female representation on the Executive Council (Exco) of SA Rugby.

To accommodate the changes, the representation of Union’s at Council meetings was increased from two to three, with each member receiving a vote. There are three such meetings per year, including the annual meeting.

Similarly, a constitutional change to ensure at least three women served on the 12 to 14 person Exco was accepted for the period from 2021 to 2025 after which the constitution was amended to ensure that the number of Exco members of one gender does not exceed the number of members of the other gender by more than three.

“This is a very significant and proud day for SA Rugby,” said Mr Mark Alexander, president of the rugby union.

“We have lagged in female representation in our game at the highest level and this is a major step forward. The highest decision-making body in our sport has been an almost exclusively male preserve since it was established, and this change will ensure that those days are no more.

“With at least 14 women members among our General Council delegates the prospect of having a female president of the South African Rugby Union at some point in the future comes much closer.”

SA Rugby’s Exco has included female members to its number for several years, but the constitutional change guarantees their continued representation, said Mr Alexander.

“Women’s rugby and its growth among South African women is one of the very highest priorities for SA Rugby and these changes will give that drive renewed impetus I am sure,” he said.

“The image of rugby as a male preserve in South Africa is breaking down. Our sport will be much stronger – as well as more diverse – from the decisions taken today.”

The changes come into immediate effect and the new women members of the General Council will attend their first scheduled meeting in June.