South African and Polish rugby union teams to face off in inaugural Warsaw Airlift Cup on Gold Coast

Rugby league sides South Africa and Poland will face off on the Gold Coast in an unlikely inaugural clash between the two countries.

The match, called the Warsaw Airlift Cup, is a nod to a common history between the nations – the operation of the same name during World War II.

Representatives of both teams say it will also go a long way in helping the sport grow at home.

Some of the players live in Australia, while others have traveled from overseas for the game, which will be played at Southport Tigers Rugby League Club.

So why play on the Gold Coast?

South African Rugby League manager Gregory Brant, who lives locally, said the two teams had decided “what better rugby tour than the Gold Coast”.

The international match is also supported by the City of Gold Coast.

It will be broadcast live to reach fans in South Africa and Poland.

The South Africa Rugby League aims to host the 2025 Rugby World Cup in France.(Supplied: South Africa Rugby League)

“Reflect and Recognize”

Mr Brant said the match signified ‘a piece of history that is remembered on the Gold Coast’.

Shane Wietecki of the Poland Rugby League said it was a way of reflecting and acknowledging the sacrifices made by South Africans to help the Polish resistance during World War II.

“In 1944, the metro was cut off by the Nazis, and they [the Polish] lacked supplies to keep the resistance going,” Wietecki said.

A British-led operation, which included South Africans and Australians, transported supplies to support the resistance.

man training rugby league
The Polish squad includes players born in Poland or with dual nationality (Provided: Troy Lowrey)

Grow the game

Mr Brant said the match would help raise awareness and opportunities for rugby league players in South Africa.

“It’s these emerging nations like South Africa and Poland that are trying to develop more players,” Mr Brant said.

“Let’s hope that one day, as we push harder, we aim to host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup in France.”

Mr Wietecki said international rugby league had slowed down during the pandemic for emerging countries in the sport.

A long distance shot of players in red and blue jerseys training under a clear blue sky, some clouds, sunny.
Shane Wietecki says the game will help build Poland’s domestic league next year.(Provided: Troy Lowrey)

“The Poland Rugby League is slowly starting to wake up after two years,” he said.

“It will all come down to the local guys and build on our domestic game next year.”

Derek McVey, a former Rugby League player, coaches the Polish team.

“It’s very exciting for players from both countries. They have the opportunity to represent their country,” McVey said.

“It gives the locals a chance to see that internationally they are represented, and it gives the locals something to aspire to. That’s quite important.”

Comments are closed.