SA Rugby is set to officially have its ban on bidding for the right to host mega-events rescinded today when a new report from the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on transformation gives them a pass mark.
The lifting of the sanction will allow the government to formally back the SA Rugby Union’s bid to host Rugby World Cup 2023.
Saru fell foul of two of 13 barometers set out by the EPG in the period 2014-15 when their original assessment was done.
It was a situation Saru publicly took on the chin‚ but privately challenged with then sports minister Fikile Mbalula and member of the EPG Dr Willie Basson.
Regardless‚ Mbalula suspended Saru’s right to host mega-events in April last year‚ at precisely the time the body was bidding to host RWC 2023.
Sources have confirmed that Saru have met all targets laid out by the EPG and will have the suspension lifted.
Basson himself hinted that SA Rugby would receive good news when questioned about the EPG’s updated findings.
Key indicators that Saru had to meet was the number of black players and coaches at national level. That target has been reached.
In the months that followed the original ban, Saru continued with its bid application‚ meeting all World Rugby’s deadlines.
Until the EPG’s latest report is made public‚ and confirms that Saru has met all 13 barometers‚ which will happen today‚ new Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi would not confirm government’s support for the bid. But he did say that the legacy of hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup had been positive for South Africa and that hosting the RWC would be beneficial.
“If I were to draw on my experiences from the soccer World Cup in 2010‚ in terms of nation building‚ we saw both black and white in the stands supporting Bafana Bafana‚” Nxesi said.
“The legacy of that tournament‚ among black and white‚ is very important.
“A big part of that legacy is the stadiums that were built‚ which means that we have the necessary infrastructure in place already and we don’t have to start from scratch.
“It means the hosting costs would be seriously reduced and I believe that the hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 can also leave a huge legacy and make a big impact‚ just like soccer did.”
Saru president Mark Alexander was optimistic that the EPG’s report contained good news for rugby.
“I’m positive about what will come with the EPG report review because we are on track‚” he said.
“The government allowed us to run for RWC 2023 pending us receiving a pass mark from the EPG. “We have a formidable bid that will deliver similar ticket sales numbers to England 2015.
“We have great stadiums‚ that are all-seaters‚ and we stand a good chance of winning this bid. It’s long overdue and would be good for South Africa.”
The EPG committee consists of: Max Fuzani, Dr Somadoda Fikeni (chair), Ria Ledwaba (deputy chair), Prof Marion Keim Lees, Silas Nkanunu, Prof Tim Noakes, Maxwell Moss, Qondisa Ngwenya, Sam Ramsamy, Dr Xolela Mangcu, Nomfanelo Magwentshu, Louis von Zeuner, Wimpie du Plessis and Willie Basson