Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has confirmed that government would support SA Rugby’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Mbalula made the statement in a media conference this week following the announcement that the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) had stripped Durban of its right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The minister’s support for the RWC 2023 is a staggering turnaround 11 months after he banned rugby from bidding for any major events because of a poor transformation record.
His original decision to sanction rugby was based on a report from the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on sports transformation.
Two other sporting codes were similarly reprimanded.
The EPG has completed a follow-up report‚ according to its chairman Doctor Willie Basson‚ to ascertain whether rugby had improved its record over the past 11 months since the original report was published.
Basson told Times Media Digital that the EPG had handed its new findings to the minister but that he was not at liberty to say what they were.
Clearly‚ based on Mbalula’s utterances in Durban on Tuesday‚ SA Rugby has done enough to prove its transformation credentials and now has the backing of government.
Or Mbalula is looking for another horse to back after the humiliation and fiasco of the 2022 CWG situation.
Mbalula’s revised stance on rugby is hardly surprising‚ given the embarrassment of Durban being the only city to bid for the CWG 2022 and having the honour taken away by the CGF over financial differences.
To add to the confusion‚ a RWC 2023 delegation is in South Africa and will meet the minister in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“Our only problem with rugby was over transformation‚” Mbalula told the media.
“We are meeting each other with regards to that.
“There is good cooperation between government and rugby and we are moving ahead.
“As we speak now World Rugby is in the country‚ and we welcome them here.
“We are ready to bid and we are following the process.”
SA Rugby has fulfilled all the obligations to ensure its bid meets World Rugby deadlines even though it has so far operated without the official endorsement of national government.
Despite Mbalula’s public support for RWC 2023 on Tuesday‚ SA Rugby has yet to receive a formal backing and the minister has not officially rescinded the ban imposed last April.
To host RWC 2023 SA Rugby needs government to underwrite the costs of staging the tournament‚ which includes a ‘fee’ of approximately R2bn to World Rugby.
— TMG Digital