South Africa’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup is back on track after the country’s government lifted a ban preventing the sport from applying to host international events, writes Stephen Barry.
The government had imposed the ban on rugby, cricket, athletics and netball in April 2016 for failing to meet racial diversity targets. Soccer had been the only one of the country’s five major sports to meet those targets for creating opportunities for black players.
But rugby has now been commended by South African Minister for Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi for going “the extra mile” to meet the ‘Transformation Charter’ targets, and will rival Ireland and France for the 2023 hosting rights.
“I would like to congratulate rugby, cricket and netball on their improved scores, you were clearly willing to walk the extra mile,” said Nxesi, who criticised the athletics federation for their poor structures and governance.
“Their right to bid for and host major sporting events, which was revoked before, is hereby immediately reinstated.
“But we would like to re-emphasise our expectations for sporting federations to take charge and provide leadership at school and club levels.”
The targets are monitored from schools level up to elite teams, under headings for demographics, performance, governance, access, preferential procurement and employment equity.
The news came as rugby officials gather in Kyoto, Japan for tomorrow’s 2019 Rugby World Cup draw.
Speaking from Japan, the President of SA Rugby Mark Alexander welcomed the boost to what he believes will be an “outstanding bid”.
“This is great news and a tribute to the work that the sport has been doing in recent years to stay in tune and relevant to modern South Africa,” said Alexander.
“We can now put the finishing touches to what we believe will be an outstanding bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“We have kept the ministry up to speed with our thinking and state of preparation throughout the suspension and continue to enjoy an excellent relationship with our sports leaders.”
South Africa won the tournament in 1995 as hosts, and have had unsuccessful bids for the 2011, 2015 and 2019 editions. They continued to meet World Rugby deadlines in the 2023 bidding process during their yearlong government suspension.
Ireland, which is bidding to host the host the tournament for the first time, and France, the 2007 hosts, are the other bidders.
The winner will be announced by World Rugby on November 15.