Op­ti­mism that World Cup is ours

The Star Late Edition - - 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.

And 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 Spring­bok 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 soc­cer World Cup). We have the sta­di­ums and, im­por­tantly, we have a sports-mad cul­ture,” he said.

“My abid­ing mem­ory of the ’95 fi­nal was paus­ing at the fi­nal whis­tle and look­ing around me (at El­lis Park), and tak­ing in the multi-cul­tural cel­e­bra­tions. It was mag­i­cal.”

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 that the South African bid was com­mer­cially and tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior to that of com­peti­tors Ire­land and France.

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

France and Ire­land were dis­ap­pointed to say the least af­ter South Africa won the vi­tally im­por­tant rec­om­men­da­tion.

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 No 8 in the 1995 fi­nal, says a pos­i­tive out­come for South Africa to­day would give the coun­try a shot in the arm. –

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