Rugby fans and companies hoping to score from the Rugby World Cup returning to South Africa — 28 years after Nelson Mandela handed the trophy to Francois Pienaar – can breathe a small sigh of relief with the news that SA is still in the running to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
But the relief could be short-lived‚ if SA Rugby administrators have not done enough to ensure the government’s support of the bid. In April‚ Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula made it clear that government’s endorsement would depend on racial transformation targets.
World Rugby has confirmed that South Africa‚ France and Ireland are the three Rugby World Cup 2023 host candidates‚ stating: “Each union demonstrated within its application that it could meet the key criteria critical to a viable Rugby World Cup hosting bid”.
Italy‚ which had been a candidate‚ formally withdrew from the process last week after the union confirmed it could not guarantee government support.
The evaluation focused on key criteria such as finance‚ venues‚ tournament window and government support.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We are delighted by the strong level of serious interest from unions and governments‚ which is clearly reflected in three strong and impressive applications.”
The Rugby World Cup 2023 host union will be selected by the World Rugby Council in November 2017.
As one of the game’s leading nations‚ and with good infrastructure‚ South Africa comfortably meets World Rugby’s requirements. But the bid will need government backing.
In April‚ Mbalula slammed SA Rugby for not doing enough to grow black players and ruled they may not bid or host international events for a year as a consequence of failing to meet transformation targets.
He said he would review the decision when considering the results on the 2016-17 Transformation Barometer.
SA Rugby chief executive officer Jurie Roux said at the time that SA Rugby hoped to meet Mbalula’s requirements.
The World Rugby event is potentially lucrative‚ with upwards of 500‚000 international visitors bringing tourism benefits. The organisation estimates the economic benefits at up to £2 billion (R36 billion).