London - Attacks by bid rivals France and Ireland over the past fortnight cost South Africa as they lost out to France to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, said disgruntled South African rugby supremo Mark Alexander.
READ: Laporte basks in victory
The president of the South Africa Rugby Union (SARU) added that the previously transparent race had become opaque for the last two weeks, climaxing with a secret ballot of the World Council members.
South Africa had been publicly targeted by both France and Ireland once they emerged as the clear favourites to host the quadrennial showpiece after topping a World Rugby technical review a fortnight ago.
Following very public criticisms -- which saw French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte rebuked by governing body World Rugby -- France triumphed by 24 votes to South Africa's 15 after early favourites Ireland had been eliminated in a first round of voting in Wednesday's secret ballot by the World Rugby Council.
"The last 15 months were very transparent but the last two weeks were very opaque," said Alexander.
"We abided by those rules up till today but certain protocol rules were broken during that process, which we are very upset by."
Alexander would not specify what rules he considered to have been broken.
"You can find the rules on the website," he said.
"At no time did we attack the other bidders."
But, he added, the vote was "done and dusted" now.
"It is disappointing as we ran a race by a set of rules and we abide by them.
"We will go back and fight another day."
READ: Deputy sports minister gracious in defeat
SARU CEO Jurie Roux, who had told France and Ireland after the report to take the same 'moral high ground' as South Africa would have had they not come out on top, was devastated.
"Obviously gutted and disappointed," said Roux.
"All round probably more disappointed for the country as there were heightened expectations.
"In the end we all agreed on a process and one of it was a blind vote at the end."
Roux, who said that he didn't know which was more disappointing, the record 38-3 defeat to Ireland last Saturday or Wednesday's vote, said they had to accept the result no matter how bitter the taste.
"Like a rugby match, you have to take it on the chin and move on.
"They (the council members) exercised an option and you've got to respect them for it."
Roux said there would be no settling of accounts with those they thought had not voted for them.
"I think we can tell who voted for us and who did not," he said.
"We are not vindictive and we agreed to this process.
"You stick to the process. If you don't do that you don't belong sitting round the table."
Roux, though, admitted losing out would be costly.
"When you host the RWC there is a brilliant platform that creates enough revenues that stems the outflow of players and acts as a barrier against the euro and yen.
"We now have to face in a different way but luckily we do have the British and Irish Lions tour (2021) so hopefully that will create new revenues and platforms."
Both Roux and South Africa vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa were adamant they would bid again.
"We live to fight another round and we will most certainly put in a bid for next time (2027)," said Ramaphosa.
For the Irish there was little to console themselves with, having garnered just eight votes despite huge political capital invested and the likes of pop star Bono publicly supporting the bid.
Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll said the defeat signalled to small rugby nations that "there is a risk" that "with the credentials that are asked for" they would be squeezed out of the bidding process in the future.