Our bid is ‘mag­nif­i­cent’ and host­ing RWC would gen­er­ate ‘wow fac­tor’

Pretoria News Weekend - - ENTERTAINMENT - MARK KEOHANE

SOUTH Africa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid was given an in­ter­na­tional vote of con­fi­dence through the re­port­ing of two of the game’s most in­flu­en­tial rugby writ­ers.

Stephen Jones of the Lon­don Sun­day Times de­scribed South Africa’s bid as “mag­nif­i­cent” and the New Zealand Her­ald’s Gre­gor Paul wrote that South Africa ar­guably had the great­est abil­ity of the three bid­ders to gen­er­ate that “wow fac­tor” ex­pe­ri­ence.

Both writ­ers ac­knowl­edged the strength of France and Ire­land as po­ten­tial hosts, but Jones was quick to cau­tion his au­di­ence that it was not a two-horse north­ern hemisphere race.

“Last week, sev­eral ac­counts of the me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion of bids men­tioned only Ire­land and France, as if South Africa have no chance what­so­ever. Another ac­count said that Ire­land were ‘hot favourites’. Nei­ther as­ser­tion is true,” wrote Jones.

“The truth is that the South African bid is mag­nif­i­cent. They have a sound track record in stag­ing big events and their sta­di­ums are all sen­sa­tional. The coun­try has good com­mu­ni­ca­tions and for those who travel with open eyes and hearts, it is a mag­nif­i­cent place.

“And, tellingly, their bid doc­u­ment fea­tures the words of the late Pres­i­dent Man­dela on page three. Mem­o­ries of the glo­ri­ous weeks in South Africa in 1995 can still pull the heart strings 22 years on.”

Jones and Paul high­lighted po­lit­i­cal neg­a­tiv­ity, real or per­ceived, as the only ob­sta­cle to South Africa host­ing the Rugby World Cup for a sec­ond time.

Jones wrote that if the South Africans could con­vince World Rugby’s au­thor­i­ties that their money is safe and that none would be salted away, then South Africa could win the right to again bring the tour­na­ment to Africa.

South African Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa’s pres­ence in Lon­don for the bid pre­sen­ta­tions on Septem­ber 25 would have done much to al­lay fears, and all re­ports were flat­ter­ing and com­pli­men­tary of the Deputy Pres­i­dent’s im­pact when ad­dress­ing World Rugby’s Gen­eral Coun­cil.

SA Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux su­perbly led the tech­ni­cal sum­mary of South Africa’s bid, Spring­bok World Cup-win­ning captains Fran­cois Pien­aar (1995) and John Smit (2007) added pres­ence, charm and in­tegrity to the South African bid team, and South African rugby could not have asked for a more favourable gov­ern­ment im­pres­sion than that which was cre­ated by Ramaphosa.

Paul, in as­sess­ing the three bid­ding coun­tries, ap­plauded Ire­land and France as wor­thy of host­ing the World Cup, but he fo­cused on the op­tion of South Africa as the one he would want to see win­ning World Rugby’s Gen­eral Coun­cil vote on Novem­ber 15.

Paul wrote: “The World Cup hasn’t been in South Africa since 1995 and to many, it re­mains one of the best – cer­tainly one of the more emo­tion­ally charged and in­spir­ing. To leave South Africa out in the cold for at least another four years would be a shock­ing way to treat one of the aris­to­crats of the game.”

Paul ar­gued that de­cid­ing a World Cup host shouldn’t be a cold, clin­i­cal ex­er­cise made on the back of a hand­ful of grey men and women pour­ing over spread­sheets and giv­ing their view on the num­bers.

“For­get the eco­nom­ics, the pol­i­tics, the spon­sors, the time zones, the broad­cast im­pli­ca­tions and what­ever else the money men end­less fret about,” he wrote. “It should be an emo­tional process, driven by the heart and not the head. All three bids have the po­ten­tial to de­liver the money World Rugby is look­ing for.

“A World Cup is an ex­pe­ri­ence more than an event. (South Africa 2023) would be an odyssey through a tra­di­tional rugby power – as close as any­one could ever get to re-en­act­ing an old-school tour.

“It would be a tour­na­ment drip­ping in nos­tal­gia and yet ev­ery­where there would be con­stant re­minders of the chang­ing face of South Africa.”

Paul recog­nised Ire­land’s im­prove­ment on the field in the last five years, with the apex be­ing 2016’s his­tory-mak­ing first ever win against the All Blacks in Chicago, but he said the Boks re­mained one of the game’s icons.

“Ire­land can le­git­i­mately ar­gue they are the fast ris­ing, new force of world rugby and they are due some kind of ac­knowl­edge­ment,” said Paul. “But South Africa have won two World Cups and the Boks have been a rugby heavy­weight since year dot. South Africa’s need and right to be ac­knowl­edged is greater than Ire­land’s.

“And maybe above all else, it is sim­ply time South Africa was shown a bit of love: re­warded for its long and rich rugby his­tory and con­tri­bu­tion.”

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