SA rugby bosses need to im­press in Lon­don

Sunday Tribune - - SPORT - Clin­ton van der Berg On Twit­ter: Clin­tonv

IF SOUTH African rugby bosses were sweat­ing last week­end, how might they be to­mor­row?

It ranks as a piv­otal day in lo­cal rugby, far more im­por­tant than any Test match against New Zealand, and will de­ter­mine the course of events for the next few years.

That’s be­cause a South African del­e­ga­tion will be un­der the gun be­fore the World Rugby coun­cil in Lon­don. They will have 30 min­utes to state their case to host the 2023 World Cup.

The pre­sen­ta­tion must be a mas­ter class in de­liv­ery: slick, im­pres­sive and en­light­en­ing. It must ex­cite and en­thral.

As ever with such things, two is­sues will shape the bid: money and sta­bil­ity. World Rugby will want to know how much cash will be guar­an­teed, and they must be as­sured of po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

South Africa is on shaky ground on both, given that the for­mer largely de­pends on the lat­ter. In­deed, it wasn’t too long ago that the for­mer sports min­is­ter banned lo­cal fed­er­a­tions from bid­ding for ma­jor tour­na­ments.

Ire­land and France are also in the run­ning.

Cu­ri­ously, France have taken the tack that a win­ning bid will see off “the death of rugby”, rea­son­ing that its promised £350 mil­lion (R6.2 bil­lion) to World Rugby will as­sist fi­nan­cially strained rugby na­tions, South Africa and New Zealand among them.

Bizarrely, they also make the case that a French tournament will force the lo­cal fed­er­a­tion to im­pose a tougher limit of for­eign play­ers in the lo­cal league, to im­prove the chances of the na­tional team at a home World Cup. One such spin-off, or­gan­is­ers claim, is that fewer play­ers will be raided from South Africa and New Zealand.

By that logic, we should all just support the French bid, which is daft. Their first or­der of busi­ness should rather be to get the support of some of the mad­cap French team own­ers.

The French have also been rocked by the with­drawal of Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron from their del­e­ga­tion, af­ter a scan­dal in­volv­ing French rugby pres­i­dent Bernard La­porte.

In any event, Ire­land is in pole po­si­tion. They rolled out a mas­sively im­pres­sive PR cam­paign last Novem­ber – how can you go wrong when Liam Nee­son is do­ing the voice-over along­side a gor­geous Ire­land back­drop? – and have cam­paigned hard. A plea by U2’s Bono will form part of their pre­sen­ta­tion to­mor­row.

Un­like France and South Africa, Ire­land has never hosted the Rugby World Cup (al­though they’ve had bits). They will use this to pull at the heart strings, but more im­por­tantly, their en­tire bid has been un­der­writ­ten by the govern­ment, a first for the World Cup. This takes risk away en­tirely and will hold mas­sive sway.

Ire­land, too, have promised World Rugby record rev­enues. The is­sue of venues has also been shrewdly ad­dressed: five top Gaelic foot­ball grounds will be used.

Plusses

South Africa has many plusses. The most ob­vi­ous is that in­fra­struc­ture is sound – grand am­phithe­atres can be found in ev­ery ma­jor city – and the ap­petite for big-time rugby is sig­nif­i­cant.

South Africa is a cheap coun­try to visit, cer­tainly by Euro­pean stan­dards. This is im­por­tant for tourists.

South Africa also has his­tory in this re­gard, the 1995 tournament hav­ing made a deeply emo­tional im­pact in­ter­na­tion­ally. Light­ning doesn’t strike twice, but rugby union’s great­est story un­folded in our back yard.

Much like Ire­land, South Africa will strongly push the cer­tainty of a month-long party for the du­ra­tion of the World Cup. We might be rough at the edges, but we know how to have a good time.

For­tu­nately, rugby’s bid­ding process is rel­a­tively quaint and low-key with lit­tle of the ex­trav­a­gance and in­dul­gence of the Olympic Games and soc­cer World Cups.

Even so, South Africa’s power bro­kers will have worked the cor­ri­dors hard, try­ing to win friends and in­flu­ence peo­ple.

The three ri­vals are not per­mit­ted to vote. It’s a straight ma­jor­ity vote and if no coun­try gets an out­right ma­jor­ity in the first round, the coun­try with the least votes is booted.

With three votes each, the tier one coun­tries are the ones we ought to be friendli­est with.

The de­ci­sion will be an­nounced in Novem­ber. For many, it will be an anx­ious wait.

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