World Cup gees hits SA

Cape Times - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Green­away

THE cham­pagne has been on ice for two weeks and today South Africans want the corks to ex­plode in the air at 3pm when the host na­tion for the 2023 Rugby World Cup is an­nounced.

Ch­ester Wil­liams, one of the dar­lings of the his­toric 1995 tri­umph of the Spring­boks, says a re­turn of the World Cup to South Africa is long over­due.

In 1995, the Spring­boks won the Webb Ellis Cup against a back­drop of poignant na­tion-build­ing for the newly demo­cratic Rain­bow Na­tion.

Wil­liams, the Bok left wing on that his­toric day in June 1995, said: “This coun­try has shown it is more than equipped to host in­ter­na­tional events. We did it in 1995 and again in 2010 (with the Foot­ball World Cup). We have the sta­di­ums and, im­por­tantly, we have a sports-mad cul­ture that will get be­hind the World Cup.

“My abid­ing mem­ory of the 1995 fi­nal was paus­ing at the fi­nal whis­tle and look­ing around me (at Ellis Park), and tak­ing in the multi-cul­tural cel­e­bra­tions. It was mag­i­cal. Ev­ery­where there were South Africans hug­ging and shout­ing in the stands.”

It is un­prece­dented in Rugby World Cup his­tory for the mem­ber na­tions of World Rugby (for­merly the IRB) to over­turn the rec­om­men­da­tion of the body that will in fact run the qua­dren­nial event.

In Septem­ber, af­ter an ex­haus­tive ten­der­ing, clar­i­fi­ca­tion and eval­u­a­tion process, the Rugby World Cup com­mit­tee an­nounced the South Africa bid was com­mer­cially and tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior to that of com­peti­tors Ire­land and France.

Today, 26 World Rugby con­stituents con­duct a se­cret bal­lot, with top-tier na­tions Aus­tralia, Eng­land, New Zealand, Scot­land, Wales, Italy and Ar­gentina hold­ing three votes apiece and the rest of the vot­ing spread as fol­lows: Canada (1), Ja­pan (2), Georgia (1), Ro­ma­nia (1), USA (1), Asia Rugby (2), Ocea­nia Rugby (2), Rugby Africa (2), Rugby Amer­i­cas North (2), Rugby Europe (2) and Su­damérica Rugby (2).

The three bid­ding coun­tries can­not vote.

Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa will head a high-pow­ered del­e­ga­tion in London that again in­cludes Sports and Re­cre­ation Min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi, SA Rugby pres­i­dent Mark Alexan­der and chief ex­ec­u­tive Jurie Roux.

France and Ire­land were dis­ap­pointed af­ter South Africa won the vi­tally im­por­tant

‘Ev­ery­where there were South Africans hug­ging and shout­ing’

rec­om­men­da­tion, and both coun­tries have sub­se­quently heav­ily crit­i­cised the South African bid while cham­pi­oning their own in an ef­fort to in­flu­ence vot­ers.

It is not im­pos­si­ble that South Africa loses out today but if that was to be the case, it would plunge the rugby world into cri­sis.

Mark An­drews, the Bok No 8 in the 1995 fi­nal, says a rub­ber stamp for South Africa today would give the coun­try a shot in the arm.

“We can’t ig­nore that the Spring­boks are go­ing through a rough time on the field of play. Our game needs a lift,” An­drews said. “But so does the coun­try in gen­eral. Good news from London today will give ev­ery South African cause for cel­e­bra­tion.”

If it is “South Africa” on the lips of Bill Beau­mont, the World Rugby chair­per­son when the big an­nounce­ment takes place, it will mean so much more than rugby for South Africa. The com­mer­cial spinoffs alone are sig­nif­i­cant.

The for­eign cap­i­tal in­jected into the econ­omy would mean a de­gree of job cre­ation; the flood of vis­i­tors into the coun­try would mean a boost for the hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism in­dus­tries; and there would be a sharp fo­cus on crime pre­ven­tion that hope­fully will linger long af­ter the World Cup has been won and lost.

Pic­ture: AP

MIGHTY TRI­UMPH: Spring­bok rugby cap­tain Fran­cois Pien­aar re­ceives the Rugby World Cup tro­phy from Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela af­ter South Africa de­feated New Zealand in Jo­han­nes­burg in June 1995.

NOVEM­BER 15, 2017

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