CAPE TOWN, Oct 31 – The recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Board that South Africa hosts the tournament again in 2023 is a victory for “nation-building and social cohesion,” the country’s sports minister Thulas Nxesi said on Tuesday.
The government gave its financial and moral support to the bid having witnessed the role the 1995 tournament played in uniting a fractured society at the end of Apartheid, Nxesi added.
The image of South Africa President Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to Springbok captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic and enduring in rugby.
The World Rugby Council is expected to rubber-stamp the Board’s recommendation on Nov. 15, though it could still opt for the bids of France and Ireland when the decision goes to a vote among member nations.
“This is a great and historic day,” Nxesi told reporters. “We know this is just the first step, but the reason we backed this bid is because we believe it is an important part of nation-building and social cohesion. We are almost there, it is just one final push.”
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said the country will continue to take the “moral high ground” ahead of the final vote, urging their rivals to refrain from “anything untoward” in terms of trying to win favour.
“We will accept whatever decision is made on Nov. 15, but we also believe that everybody (within the World Rugby Council) understands their responsibility,” Roux said.
“We as SA Rugby will run with the moral high ground. We have not visited one union, only seen them in groups along with the other bidders.
“Nobody can now add any additional information or present to anybody, all you can do is ask for the process to take it’s normal course and not be a part of anything untoward. We will just keep giving out information on our bid for the next few weeks.”
Roux is expecting to get support in the World Rugby Council vote from Southern Hemisphere rivals Australia and New Zealand.
“Our SANZAAR partners have publicly stated that they will support the process and support the recommendation that has been made,” he said.
Roux believes that what won them the most favour with the independent assessors was the country’s record of hosting major international events. Along with England, South Africa is the only country to host a rugby, soccer and cricket World Cup.
“On financial resources and tournament structure, we (the 2023 bidders) were all about equal, we would all make money and deliver the host fee. In the end, what pulled it through for us is our stadia and cities, and our proven track record in hosting international tournaments.”
Stadiums either newly-built or refurbished for the 2010 Soccer World Cup will be used for the 2023 tournament.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup is set to be held in South Africa after the Board of the sport’s governing body recommended their bid ahead of Ireland and France on Tuesday.
World Rugby’s Council is expected to rubber-stamp the recommendation on November 15 – though it could still opt for any of the three bids. Japan will host the next tournament in 2019.
Ireland had been the bookmakers’ favourites having never been the main host before while France were the outsiders having staged the tournament in 2007.
South Africa hosted the 1995 World Cup against an extraordinary emotional, social and political backdrop after the country had missed the first two tournaments due to the sporting ban over apartheid.
The sight of Nelson Mandela in a Springbok shirt presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar as South Africa triumphed on home soil is probably the most iconic image in the tournament’s history.
There had been concerns that the current political instability would work against a return but the evaluation committee clearly felt that it was not an issue, while the availability of stadiums built for the 2010 soccer World Cup helped it achieve a high score on infrastructure.
The evaluation was carried out by a team of “internal and external functional area experts”, against weighted criteria.
They also included the likely commercial success and guarantees, venues and political stability.
“This is the first Rugby World Cup host selection to take place following a complete redesign of the bidding process to promote greater transparency and maximise World Rugby’s hosting objectives,” World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“The comprehensive and independently scrutinised evaluation reaffirmed that we have three exceptional bids but it also identified South Africa as a clear leader based on performance against the key criteria.”
World Rugby published the results of the evaluation report with South Africa receiving an overall score of 78.97 percent to the 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland.
“We told the World Rugby Council that we would deliver a triple win tournament when we presented to them last month – a win for the game with record receipts; a win for the fans with an unforgettable tournament in a bucket-list destination and, most importantly, a win for the players with the most athlete-centric event in the tournament’s history,” SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said.
The Irish bid scored badly on the heavily-weighted “venues and host cities” criteria, probably reflecting concerns over a shortage of hotel rooms.
They have not given up yet, however.
“While it is disappointing not to have received the initial recommendation there is nothing in the report which is insurmountable and this is certainly not the end of the road,” Dick Spring, Ireland’s bid committee chairman, said.
“We absolutely believe Ireland can secure the tournament for 2023.”
In the Nov. 15 vote South Africa, Ireland and France will not take part. The remaining SANZAR and Six Nations unions will have three votes each of a total of 39, with the rest made up from the six regional associations and smaller rugby countries.