SA Rugby World Cup bid

Saru keen to host tournament again in 2023

SOUTH Africa will face stiff competition to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup after the SA Rugby Union (Saru) declared its intention to bid for the tournament. South Africa hosted the 1995 tournament, still regarded as the greatest because of its timing in terms of the country’s history and the fact that then president Nelson Mandela endorsed the event.

But subsequent bids for the 2015 and 2019 tournaments did not make it past the first round of the final voting process.

There was unhappiness in Saru that on those occasions serious horse-trading had taken place between the Home Unions to ensure that England won the 2015 bid, while World Rugby’s desire to grow the game in new markets meant Japan was always favourite for 2019.

As one of the game’s leading nations, and with wonderful infrastructure, South Africa comfortably meets World Rugby’s requirements. But for 2019 Japan had to pay World Rugby a guarantee of nearly R1.7-billion.

By 2023 that price will have increased significantly and to bid successfully Saru would have to have government backing.

Saru will face stiff competition from Ireland, who have made their intentions clear to host the tournament, the US, Argentina and possibly Australia, France and Italy.

France hosted the 2007 event, which was a huge financial, logistical and tourist success, although the final week was blighted by strikes that crippled the Parisian public transport network.

Australia successfully hosted the 2003 tournament and seriously need the RWC to help drag rugby out of financial difficulties.

The US might have to wait until 2027 as World Rugby is unlikely to go to back-to-back emerging rugby markets following the 2019 tournament in Japan.

Argentina also falls into the US bracket but could make a strong bid.

Ireland, still slowly recovering from the recession after the bullish Celtic Tiger years, appear to be the most advanced in their tender preparations, having already stated their intent last December.

Ireland has a decent rugby case, with four strong provinces and a national team on the rise.

But it is a small country with limited infrastructure and is also undermined by this year’s tournament’s being right on its doorstep.

The Irish plan is ambitious and more than R1.8-billion has already been promised by the Irish government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

“We definitely expect to be bidding to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup – as we have for the past three tournaments,” Saru chief executive Jurie Roux said.

“By the time the tournament comes round it will be 28 years since Nelson Mandela handed the trophy to Francois Pienaar, and I believe that South Africa is hungry to once again host rugby’s greatest occasion.

“The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup were magnificent occasions for our nation and for the respective sports and the prospect of being able to repeat those unforgettable occasions is very exciting.

“Bidding will mean a lot of hard work and I am sure the competition will be fierce, but this country has a unique experience to offer the game’s travelling supporters.”

Key dates: ý May 14: Window opens for unions to submit expressions of interest. ý June 15: Expression of interest period ends. ý May 2016: Tender documentation released. ý June 2016: Deadline for confirmation of intention to tender. ý May 2017: Announcement of 2023 Rugby World Cup host.

-Craig Ray

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