Sevens may come to CT
Cape Town - Sponsors, development and loyalty are all factors that will play a role when the South African Rugby Union (Saru) decides which city will host the local leg of the International Rugby Board's (IRB) World Sevens Series from next year.
George's contract to host the tournament expires this year, and although this Southern Cape town and its authorities are optimistic about hosting it for another five years, chances are slim that this will happen.
Saru's Steven Roos told Sport24 on Tuesday that the tender process was ongoing, but that it would be unfair at this point to discuss this sensitive matter in public. Applications apparently close on Friday.
It has been learned that Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg are the main contenders – especially when spectator numbers are taken into consideration.
Andy Marinos, Saru's manager of teams, this week said about the tender process: "The championship in George has a special place on our rugby calendar and the town over the years has delivered a wonderful service.
"Eventually we want to have a tournament with the same stature as the one in Hong Kong.
"And if people are willing to travel as far south as Wellington in New Zealand to watch Sevens, we can manage that here without a doubt."
The Hong Kong Sevens are still the highlight of the IRB's world series and the stadium has room for 40 000 spectators - something which it manages easily each year.
The Westpac Stadium in Wellington has room for 34 500 people and its party atmosphere has made the New Zealand championship very popular with both players and spectators very quickly.
Outeniqua Park in George only has room for 8 000 spectators. And even if additions were made to the stadium, it would probably not be enough to beat the stadiums that were built or renovated for the World Cup Soccer championship.
For Emirates, the sponsor, it will also be of more commercial value to have the matches in a city where to and from which it has flights – in which case Cape Town is the favourite.
Fouad Caunhye, the Emirates' area manager in Southern Africa, emphasised the convenience of such a decision at a media function this week.
There were more rumours in Dubai last week that the Cape Town stadium was also a favourite with the IRB.
This comes after development and upliftment of rugby in the Eastern Cape meant that the Mandela Stadium was favoured for some time.
For HSBC, the new sponsor of the whole IRB series, the hosting of a series of festive championships is also desirable. The final decision rests with Saru.