For the first time since the Overwatch World Cup was launched in 2016, Blizzard has allowed South Africa to field a team in the tournament. We will be sending the South Africa Rhinos, but only if they can raise the money to get to Blizzcon 2019 in Anaheim, near Los Angeles in the US.

Blizzard covers the flights and accommodation of the top 10 teams. The Rhinos didn't qualify in the top 10, so it's up to them to raise the money they need.

Team manager for the South Africa Rhinos, Sam Wright, said that the players will cover their own food, transport, and visa costs, but many need help with big-ticket travel expenses like flights to Los Angeles and accommodation in Anaheim during the competition.

To help cover the costs, Wright has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the team on BackaBuddy, a South African fundraising platform. It has raised R30,000 of the R150,000 target.

"We've contacted a travel agent who has estimated we will need roughly R300,000 to cover seven to eight days in a hotel for the players, as well as flights to Los Angeles and transport to and from the airport," Wright said.

"The costing is for ten peopleβ€”7 players, the coach, the general manager, and the community lead. However, the general manager (me) and community lead (Liz) have agreed to fund player and coach flights first, and will fund our own trips should the need arise."

If you would like to donate to the cause, visit the Team South Africa to Overwatch World Cup BackaBuddy page and throw a few rand their way.

Community member Garrith Steyn has pledged that if the Rhinos raise enough money to go to attend the World Cup, he will give away a SteelSeries Rival 710 mouse and SteelSeries Actis 3 headset to those who donated R50 or more. To be entered into the draw, include your Twitter handle and "Rival710" when donating.

How the South Africa Rhinos got into the Overwatch World Cup

The reason South Africa is able to field a team at the Overwatch World Cup this year is because Blizzard changed the structure of the tournament to allow countries like South Africa to compete.

Wright explained that Blizzard previously used online or regional qualifiers and players' average Overwatch skill rating to determine if a country qualified for the World Cup.

South Africa (and many other regions of the world) compete at a major latency disadvantage, which made it difficult to qualify.

For the 2019 World Cup, Blizzard made it so that any country which could demonstrate that it had enough community support and was capable of fielding a team, could enter a team.

Players voted for their country's organising committee, which were then tasked with submitting a potential player list to Blizzard.

The committee for the South Africa Rhinos is:

  • General Manager β€” Sam "TechGirl" Wright
  • Head coach β€” Peter "NotGroot" Berens
  • Community Manager β€” Lizelle "VirgoLiz" Smith

The Team β€” South Africa Rhinos

After the committee was selected, they had to present Blizzard with a roster of potential players that could represent South Africa.

Wright said that the local community helped them to find Tier 2 European coaches to assist with selecting players.

"After discussions with the captains of some of South Africa’s most successful Overwatch teams, as well as selection tryouts monitored by the European coaches, the South Africa Rhinos have announced the 2019 Overwatch World Cup Team," said Wright.

The team is:

  • Main Tank β€” Jeandre β€œShapeShifter” Sadie
  • Off Tank β€” Ruan β€œSenticall” Potgieter
  • Hitscan β€” Jordan β€œTwenty” Bouah
  • Flex β€” Jean-Luc β€œLikeALuke” Linssen
  • Support β€” Brandon β€œSquishy” Leonard
  • Support β€” Wayne β€œVisions” Short
  • Reserve β€” Joshua β€œAshBro” Luttich

You can follow the team's exploits on the Southern Barbarians Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Finding sponsors

Wright said that she did reach out to companies and pitch sponsorship deals to raise the money needed to send Team South Africa to the Overwatch World Cup.

"In an ideal world if we could secure 4 brands, at R50 000 a brand, we’d be able to fund the trip," Wright said.

"While no brands have said it, I’m also aware that many e-sports budgets have been cut, making it all the more harder for brands to commit to World Cup," Wright wrote in an update last month.

"The return we can offer on this event is somewhat limited because of the legalities we are expected to respect. Again, adding to the difficulties. I’m aware many other GMs are facing similar issues and hurdles. So this isn’t a problem specific to our country."

At the time of publication, the Rhinos only had one sponsor: professional SA-based e-sports team Goliath Gaming, which has pledged R40,000 towards South Africa's Overwatch World Cup campaign.

Support for the team has come from places like the Gaming & Chill Lounge in the Tyger Valley mall in Bellville, near Cape Town. The company announced that all proceeds from people who play Overwatch on PlayStation or Xbox during August will be donated to the Rhinos.

The Rhinos will also be participating in the EuroCup Fundraiser, organised by Monkey Bubble, to help raise money for teams in Blizzard's EU region.

Countries participating in the fundraiser include: Austria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Kuwait, Portugal, South Africa, Denmark, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Germany, Israel, Norway, and Switzerland.

With all the contributions and sponsorship taken together, the Rhinos say that they are close to having enough money to attend the World Cup. One or two major sponsors would be enough to push it over the line, as would a swell of support through its BackaBuddy campaign.

Wright said that as of Monday, 26 August, they only need R50,000 to hit their minimum goal and send the team to Blizzcon 2019.

If you would like to see South Africa compete at the Overwatch World Cup 2019, please consider donating β€” BackaBuddy: Team South Africa to Overwatch World Cup.